Friday, May 24, 2024
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NBA Preview: Washington Wizards (11-54) at Houston Rockets (30-35)

It might be too late to matter in the final standings, but the Houston Rockets have found some determination on the road that had been missing for most of the season.

With their 103-101 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday, the Rockets extended their road winning streak to four games, a rousing stretch considering Houston, which will host the Washington Wizards on Thursday, had won five games on the road previously this season.

Against the Spurs, the Rockets won without their leading scorer and rebounder — center Alperen Sengun, who suffered a severe right ankle sprain and bone bruise on the knee of the same leg Sunday against the Sacramento Kings. Houston was also without rookie wing Cam Whitmore (knee), whose scoring bursts off the bench had been a boon to the Rockets’ inconsistent offense.

Instead of surrendering to their attrition, the Rockets displayed a perseverance that has been prevalent more frequently of late. Houston had to fend off late rallies in Phoenix and Sacramento before doing so once more against the Spurs. The road win in Portland at the start of their three-game road trip featured the Rockets fashioning a second-half rally from a double-digit deficit.

“We showed a lot of resilience,” Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. said. “A lot of ups and downs but we stayed together, we stayed with it. I feel like that’s been our theme these last few games, just staying together and playing hard throughout the game and trusting (each other).”

Without Sengun, who is reportedly out for the rest of the season, the road will remain tough for the Rockets, who entered Wednesday 4 1/2 games behind the Golden State Warriors for the final play-in spot in the Western Conference. The next-man-up cliche was invoked after the win in San Antonio, but with their rotation depleted, the Rockets will have to dig a bit deeper into their bench and lean on reserves whose previous playing time had been limited.

\The Wizards had not enjoyed a winning streak of more than two games this season, but following back-to-back victories over the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat, Washington appeared set to achieve that relative milestone against the injury-ravaged Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday.

Instead, the Wizards trudged to a 42-point first half and trailed by 25 points at the intermission before a fruitless second-half rally yielded a 109-97 road defeat. The loss kept the Wizards in the Eastern Conference cellar and served as the latest indication of how lost this season has become for a young roster struggling to chart any semblance of positive direction.

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