Houston (20-16) at Washington (10-25)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Washington, DC
Temp: 55° F
  • Game info: 7:00 pm EST Tue Jan 13, 2004
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Jeff Van Gundy wants his team to play with more intensity, especially on the defensive end. It’s just that he’s sick and tired of relaying the message over and over again.

“I need to find the answer,” Van Gundy said. “We keep visiting the same issues. It’s disappointing—it’s not new. It is what it is. We are what we are and we can’t stay where we are and do anything significant.”

The Rockets will try to appease their demanding coach when they visit the Washington Wizards.

Van Gundy voiced his frustration following a porous defensive effort in Sunday’s 97-93 loss to Boston. The Rockets, who had won three of their previous four games, allowed their highest point total in three weeks.

“We didn’t defend and our turnovers were at a high rate,” Van Gundy said. “We played with zero team energy.”

Jim Jackson scored a season-high 26 points and Steve Francis added 19 for the Rockets, who gave the ball away 16 times while allowing the Celtics to shoot 47 percent from the floor, including 50 percent from 3-point range (11-for-22).

“First of all, we didn’t come out prepared at the beginning of the game,” Francis said. ‘“And second of all, our shot selection was horrible, especially at crucial time.

“In order to win, you’ve got to be able to move the ball against a good defensive-minded team like Boston and we didn’t move the ball when we needed to.”

The Wizards overcame the loss of Gilbert Arenas by ending a four-game losing streak with a 94-87 win over Philadelphia on Saturday.

Arenas, who is averaging 18.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists, will be sidelined three to six weeks after re-aggravating an abdominal injury during Friday’s 103-92 loss at Orlando.

It was the guard’s sixth game back since he missed 14 of 15 with the same injury. The Wizards are already without high-scoring guard Jerry Stackhouse, who hasn’t played all season because of a knee injury.

Larry Hughes more than made up for the loss of Arenas on Saturday, scoring a season-high 43 points.

“We need him to shoot well,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said of Hughes. “We need everyone to shoot well. We can’t rely on Larry to get us 43 every night. We’ve got to get a little more equally balanced as far as scoring.”

Hughes finished one point shy of his career high, and Kwame Brown added 14 points and 13 rebounds for Washington.

STANDINGS (through Jan. 11): Rockets - 4th place (tied), 5 1/2 GB, Midwest Division. Wizards - 6th place, 10 GB, Atlantic Division.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Rockets - F Jackson, F Kelvin Cato, C Yao Ming, G Francis, G Cuttino Mobley. Wizards - F Jared Jeffries, F Brown, C Brendan Haywood, G Hughes, G Brevin Knight.

TEAM LEADERS: Rockets - Francis, 17.1 ppg and 5.7 apg; Yao, 8.9 rpg. Wizards - Hughes, 19.1 ppg; Etan Thomas, 7.2 rpg; Arenas, 4.8 apg.

2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Tied, 1-1.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 27; Wizards, 100-98 (OT). At Washington, Michael Jordan scored 10 of his 35 points in overtime to lead the Wizards.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Rockets - 8-11 on the road; Wizards - 6-9 at home.

INJURIES: Rockets - G Adrian Griffin (knee). Wizards - G Arenas (abdomen); G Chris Whitney (ankle); G Stackhouse (knee).

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