While the significant majority of the local and national sports world locked their eyes on a Washington, D.C. baseball team that did something cool, the city’s professional basketball team also played a group from the city of Houston in its first home game of the season. What ensued was one of the stupidest, silliest, and most exhilarating games in NBA history — nay, sports history.
You’ve probably seen that final score by now. Hell, you probably saw it the previous night when you aimlessly checked your phone during a stoppage in the baseball game. I, on the other hand, actually watched the damn thing from start to finish. And let me tell you: the game was even dumber than the score indicated.
But first, let’s talk about the score
An insane 159-158. In regulation. The Wizards scored 77 first-half points, then scored more than that in the second half ... and lost.
To put it another way: since the 1983-84 season, 155 teams have scored at least 140 points per 100 possessions. These Wizards became the second team to do that and still lose the game. The other team on that list was ... also the Wizards, who lost a 2009 game to the Knicks despite scoring more than 147 points per 100 possessions.
That Knicks-Wizards game had only 83 possessions each, so the final score was a reasonable 122-118. This Rockets-Wizards game, on the other hand, had 110. Puts James Harden’s 59 points into perspective, doesn’t it?
James Harden’s 59 points made up 18.6 percent of the total points scored tonight. If someone in 2001 scored 18.6 percent of points in an average game, he would've gone for 35.— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) October 31, 2019
The game has changed, my friends.
The transition defense in this game was more than non-existent
How do you get to 110 possessions despite everyone scoring all the time? Stuff like this:
This really happened after a made Rockets buckets.
And you gotta love Russell Westbrook’s “hey I thought it was YOUR jobs to play defense” energy after Davis Bertans’ wide-open dunk.
There were 19 possessions in which one team scored within 10 seconds of the other team scoring. Again: that’s off makes. Five of those came off free-throw makes, including two in the fourth quarter. This happened in the final three minutes!
I wish I could tell you how some of those happened, but I can’t because the camera was still panning to a close-up of someone else scoring.
The Rockets have completely warped basketball
Here is Houston’s shot chart for the game.
Your eyes don’t deceive you: the Rockets took three mid-range jumpers the entire game. Two came in the first four minutes. The third came on a vicious Harden stepback on Isaac Bonga. Otherwise, every single shot was in the paint, three-point range, or via the free-throw line.
It wasn’t due to a lack of trying by the Wizards. The Rockets just got wherever they wanted.
When the NBA created the three-point line in 1979-80, could they have possibly imagined a game in which a team took three two-point jumpers?
Harden has really warped basketball
Watch some of these highlights.
I don’t think the Wizards actually stopped him once. Those 14 misses were all accidents that occurred merely because Harden was messing around too much. It was like watching a human try to swat a fly. Harden really made Rui Hachimura think he stopped him three times on this drive.
Ok, so how is a man that can casually score 60 a few times a year and carries his team in the West not a lock for top three player in the world? ♂️ James Harden is one of the most talented ever. pic.twitter.com/q7YpVzZ8cL— Ball Don't Stop (@balldontstop) October 31, 2019
But they’ve also warped defense
The Wizards gave up 159 points because they are incredibly young and have no proven, halfway decent defensive players on the roster. There’s a reason I thought they could have the worst defense of all time.
The Rockets, on the other hand, should be better than this. Except, they really, really, really, really didn’t care. Specifically, two notable former members of the Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t seem to care much. I’ve seen worse individual breakdowns from Harden and Westbrook in other games, but their combined lack of fight should worry any Rockets fans who believe in their title bona fides.
The synchronized flopping in this fourth quarter sequence kinda sums up their defensive nights. They look like bowling pins blown over by a gust of wind.
Oh, there was plenty of silly stuff
Like this Clint Capela uncalled travel that mattered a lot more than expected.
one of if not the greatest missed travel no-call of all-time pic.twitter.com/9LIOYSaHCL— Joel Wobiid (@WorldWideWob) October 31, 2019
I guess that was the longest gather step in NBA history.
There were also two improbable Wizards buzzer beaters. I don’t know how Davis Bertans got this one off.
Isaiah Thomas knows to get the ball to Davis Bertans for 3 pic.twitter.com/whWBR8Z0Uy— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) October 31, 2019
And then they got Beal a layup at the end of the. half, Valpo style.
But we gotta talk about the end
After an Eric Gordon three completed a 9-0 Rockets run to give them a one-point lead with under a minute left, the two teams came out of a timeout to a raucous Wizards crowd. Have Wizards fans awoken to give their team an extra lift? Well, kinda. Something apparently happened in the baseball game, too.
Spurred on by that support, Beal drove by P.J. Tucker for a layup and a foul, scoring his 41st, 42nd, and 43rd points of the game. D.C. sports would rise again!
But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The Wizards briefly had hope when Tucker fouled Beal on a three-pointer with the Wizards down three, but that just allowed Harden to end the game in a perfectly on-brand way.
By the letter of the law, that’s probably a foul. Isaac Bonga didn’t beat Harden to the spot and his arms appear to come down on Harden. But Harden could beat the young, green Wizards any way he wanted, based on the evidence of this game and common sense. He chose to beat them by drawing a dubious foul.
That’s his right to do. It’s my right to call it lame.
Not that the Wizards seemed bothered
Boy, Scott Brooks really laid it on thick.
Scott Brooks: “We play hard. We have a lot of enthusiasm on the court. Guys are flying all over the place. That’s a championship-level team with two MVPs…Like I said, nothing to be ashamed of."— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) October 31, 2019
Scott Brooks on how hard the Wizards play: "I’m falling in love with these guys, and I know our fan base is gonna do the same thing. This is how they practice. It’s the most incredible thing."— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) October 31, 2019
(For the record: I am a Wizards fan and I agree with all this. I really don’t care they lost the game. They made it fun and that’s all that really matters this year. Let the Rockets have that W, they need it more anyway. Doesn’t change that this 2019-20 Wizards team is exponentially more fun to watch that their last two teams).
But those quotes don’t compare to this one from Harden
“So James, what won you guys this game?”
Westbrook is a hero for running to tackle Harden before he could keep spouting nonsense. That’s a true friend right there.