Wizards-Rockets Preview

After facing two of the Western Conference's top teams, the Houston Rockets have nearly matched their losses from their previous three weeks.

The Rockets would appear to have an easier opponent Saturday night in the slumping Washington Wizards, a franchise they've also dominated in recent seasons.

Houston (25-24) wrapped up its three-game road trip with a pair of defeats to division leaders. The Rockets were blown out 130-99 by San Antonio on Wednesday but were more competitive Friday in a 116-108 loss against Oklahoma City despite being outshot 47.7 to 37.9 percent.

"We've got to take those shots with confidence and we believe in the guys that are taking those shots," interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. "Tonight they didn't go. The past few weeks they've been falling and they'll go again. Guys work on it. They've got to trust their training, shoot them with confidence and we'll get them."

Not helping the Rockets' cause was Dwight Howard's ejection in the third quarter for a second technical foul. With Howard out, Thunder center Enes Kanter scored 20 of his 22 points.

Houston went 9-3 over its previous 12 contests with six of those wins coming against teams that are currently below .500. The Rockets will face another such opponent Saturday.

The Wizards (20-24) have fallen below .500 by dropping five of six. A 117-113 loss to Denver on Thursday was their third in a row, one shy of a season high, and they've given up an average of 113.0 points in that skid while being outscored by a combined 46.

"We're waiting to the point of being embarrassed before we start playing hard from a defensive standpoint," coach Randy Wittman said. "Until we take playing defense as first priority, we're going to continue to have nights like this."

The Rockets registered a 109-103 victory in Washington in the first matchup this season Dec. 9. James Harden scored 42 points, his most in the past 27 games, in Houston's 20th win in the past 25 matchups.

The Rockets have won 18 of the last 21 home meetings but lost 104-103 in the most recent Dec. 29, 2014. Washington's Bradley Beal had 33 points, four shy of tying his career high, and made six free throws in the final 1:47.

Harden scored 33 points, and he's averaging 33.5 while shooting 50.0 percent in his last four games against the Wizards. He's gone 12 of 29 from 3-point range in those matchups, and he also had nine rebounds and seven assists in the latest.

Harden is averaging 33.0 points and shooting 52.6 percent in his three home matchups against the Wizards since coming to Houston in 2012-13.

Washington point guard John Wall has a combined 51 points and 24 assists in his last two games against Houston, and fell one rebound shy of a triple-double in the December loss.

Wall, who has six consecutive double-doubles against the Rockets, hasn't fared as well on the scoresheet in four lifetime visits to Houston. He's averaged 15.5 points while shooting 36.7 percent.

Beal has 15 points in each of his last two games against the Rockets while shooting a combined 34.6 percent. He averaged 21.4 points in his first five matchups.

Washington's last four-game losing streak was from Nov. 24-28.

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