Reeling Wizards Let Chance for Needed Victory Slip Away

Rockets 103, Wizards 91

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 22, 2008; Page E01

When the Wizards drafted JaVale McGee with the 18th overall pick this summer, they never imagined that the talented but raw 7-footer would be asked to defend one of the world's best players with his team desperately in need of a win so early in the season.

Yet there McGee was last night at Verizon Center, battling Houston Rockets star Yao Ming in the closing minutes of a tight game.

McGee, who was making his second straight start, did what he could, but the Rockets went after him relentlessly, time and again feeding the ball to the 7-foot-6, 310-pound Yao.

As a result, Yao (18 points) dictated the game's tempo in Houston's 103-91 victory, while his teammates took advantage of the Washington defense whenever it sagged to stop him.

Houston closed the game on a 27-6 run and the Wizards failed to score over the game's final 4 minutes 16 seconds.

The crushing shots came courtesy of Rafer Alston, Tracy McGrady and Ron Artest, each of whom made a three-pointer in the final two minutes.

"Yao's a load in the paint, man, and then they've got some really big-time shotmakers," Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said. "We were hoping JaVale would change up his coverage and get to a front. We did that once and we got a stop, but the young fella has to learn how to get his work down early, get to a front even before he comes to your side but he didn't do that. He tried but because of his inexperience, he couldn't do that."

Antawn Jamison led the Wizards, who dropped to 1-9 for the first time since 1966-67, when the team was the Baltimore Bullets, with 27 points and 10 rebounds.

Andray Blatche added 14 points off the bench but that was no match for Houston's balanced scoring -- Yao was one of five Rockets in double figures -- and methodical attack.

McGee posted eight points, four rebounds and two blocks but also finished with five fouls and had his hands full defending Yao.

Things looked good for the Wizards with 8:43 remaining when Juan Dixon's jumper gave them an 85-76 lead, but the Rockets quickly answered with a three-point play by reserve forward Carl Landry and consecutive three-pointers by McGrady to tie the game at 85 with just more than seven minutes to play.

Another Dixon jumper gave Washington an 87-85 lead but Yao then posted up against McGee, received a pass and threw down a monstrous dunk over the rookie.

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