Going big pushes Wizards past Rockets

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

The Wizards weren't afraid to make adjustments. They closed out a victory over Houston when the Rockets didn't change their own ways.

After enduring a relentless stream of 3-pointers that forced them to abandon playing two big men at the same time early and often in the second half, Wizards coach Randy Wittman used both Emeka Okafor and Nene to unbalance the Rockets and got what is becoming an all too familiar clutch play from Bradley Beal to eke out a 105-103 triumph before a sold-out Verizon Center.

The 6-foot-10 Okafor backed down 6-6 Carlos Delfino to earn a trip to line with 5.2 seconds remaining and the score tied at 103-103.

"They did it all game long, and I thought that they would stay small," Wittman said. "I said, 'Screw it, let's go big.' It could've been Nene. Actually, it was for either one. Whoever they wanted to put the little guy on, we were going to."

When Okafor missed the second of two free throws, the 6-5 Beal (21 points, five rebounds) soared over 7-footer Omer Asik (10 rebounds) to steal the game-winning rebound for the Wizards (17-37), who clinched their 11th victory in 15 games since Jan. 7 against teams with winning records.

"It came off my fingers, and I thought it was good," Okafor said. "Then I see Brad, aka Superman, coming flying in and grab it and save the day."

Asik was also fooled by the mild-mannered rookie — though he has become anything but in recent games.

"I thought Asik was going to box me out," Beal said. "I kind of disguised it, like I wasn't going to go in. But like most bigs, they hardly ever box out guards, so it was a long rebound, and I just jumped up for it. I was in the right place at the right time, I guess."

But Washington's heads were spinning at halftime after the Rockets (31-27) had unleashed 28 3-point attempts in the first half, one shy of the NBA record. Led by five from Chandler Parsons (24 points) — who time and again took advantage of the mismatch of being guarded by Nene — they converted 13, matching the most allowed by the Wizards all season.

But with Wittman switching in Chris Singleton and Trevor Booker to change the look of his defense, Parsons had just five points in the second half and none in the fourth quarter. Trevor Ariza (16 points, season-high six assists, four steals) drew confidence from harassing James Harden (27 points on 10-for-23 shooting), scoring seven points during a game-altering 19-5 run in the third quarter. Okafor (17 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks, two steals) made a key rejection on Parsons then tied the game at 71.

Although the Rockets hit another trio of 3-pointers in fourth quarter, they were 6-for-18 from the arc in the second half.

"We gotta worry about ourselves," Ariza said. "That's what we have taken pride in these last few games, worrying about what we need to do and not really falling into the trap of other teams. When we focus on ourselves, we do a pretty good job."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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Craig Stouffer

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner