“I got ’em,” Beal, who scored a team-high 21 points, said he told himself after reeling in the rebound with 5.2 seconds remaining. “He let me get the rebound. It just happened to fall in my hand. I was happy because I knew the game was over.”
The Wizards (17-37) claimed their second win in a row against a team that is currently in contention in the Western Conference playoff race, and improved to 11-4 against teams with winning records since Jan. 7 — when Beal got the positive vibes going on a once-completely-moribund season when he hit a jumper at the buzzer to defeat defending Western Conference champion Oklahoma City. During that stretch, they have also defeated the Los Angeles Clippers, New York, Brooklyn and Denver twice, including a win on Friday night.
John Wall has returned during the run, and Wall had his second consecutive double-double with 12 points and 11 assists. Okafor added his 14th double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds as the Wizards withstood a three-point barrage and a 17-point first-half defict. Reserve forward Trevor Ariza came off the bench to contribute 18 points and helped slow down all-star guard James Harden, who led all scorers with 27 points.
Forward Chandler Parsons added 24 points for the Rockets (31-27), who made 19 three-pointers on a season-high 46 attempts. Houston had won its previous two games against Oklahoma City and Brooklyn, but teams with relative success have struggled of late when they come to Washington.
“We play to the level of our competition. Sometimes that helps us. Sometimes that hurts us,” reserve point guard A.J. Price said. “But we feel like we have a good team. We feel like our record is not indicative of the type of team we have here. Our record is pretty bad, but since we’ve had our full team, we’ve been playing pretty well.”
The Wizards had to play some catch-up against the Rockets, who routinely engage in shootouts, with an offense geared around swinging the ball, making the extra pass and setting up open three-pointers. When that doesn’t work, they let Harden go to work and attack the basket with long strides, herky-jerky dribbling and strong finishes at the basket.
According to multiple league sources, the Wizards could’ve obtained Harden from Oklahoma City in exchange for Beal and Chris Singleton last summer but elected to stand pat. Harden sized up Beal then buried a three-pointer to give the Rockets a 48-31 lead with 5 minutes 46 seconds left in the second quarter.