Rockets-Wizards Preview


Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale knows he can't keep leaning so much on starting guards Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin.

A game against the NBA-worst Washington Wizards could be the perfect chance for those two to take a much-needed break.

The Rockets go for a third straight victory Monday in the nation's capital, where they open a stretch of three games in four days.

After Lowry and Martin combined for 38 points - and nearly 80 minutes - in Friday's 103-89 victory over Sacramento, the Rockets backcourt duo each played 49 minutes against Portland on Saturday in a 107-105 overtime win.

Lowry, who finished with 33 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, has logged 41 minutes or more in four consecutive games since missing two with a foot injury. He is averaging a team-high 37.0 minutes.

Martin, scoring 17.3 points per game, is second on the Rockets (5-7) with 35.6 minutes per game.

"They're playing too many minutes - we've got to give them more rest, there's no doubt," McHale said after his team won back-to-back games for the first time. "But while they're getting that rest we've got to be able to maintain leads and expand leads."

Houston has led by at least 10 points in each of the last five games, but has won just three of those.

Improved play from his reserves could give McHale the luxury of giving his starters a breather.

Saturday was a good start as Chase Budinger scored a season-best 18 points and Jordan Hill added seven with seven rebounds.

The Rockets, who host Detroit on Tuesday and New Orleans two days later, have lost six of seven on the road. Houston had won five straight in Washington prior to a 98-91 loss Nov. 10, 2010.

Wizards point guard John Wall had his first triple-double in that game with 19 points, 13 assists, 10 rebounds.

Wall nearly recorded another one Saturday with 19 points, nine assists and nine boards, but he also had a season-worst eight turnovers in a 103-90 loss to Philadelphia.

The second-year point guard, though, committed just one of those miscues in the final 24 minutes.

"That was the best half of basketball he's played with us so far, distributing the ball, scoring, being aggressive," said coach Flip Saunders, who was hired by McHale - his former teammate at the University of Minnesota - to coach the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1995. "... As I told him afterward, we need that from him for 48 (minutes), because as a point guard, you're always the leader."

While Saunders needs Wall and Nick Young to step up against Lowry and Martin, the Wizards' frontcourt trio of Trevor Booker, Chris Singleton and Rashard Lewis has to improve after scoring eight combined points on 4-of-22 shooting Saturday.

Their efforts are especially important given that Wizards forward Andray Blatche could miss a fourth consecutive game with a sprained right shoulder. He averaged 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds - both team highs - as Washington and Houston split the season series in 2010-11.

Washington center JaVale McGee blocked five shots Saturday and finished with a season-high 23 points and a career high-tying 18 boards.

Houston has outrebounded its last four opponents by an average of 11.5. Samuel Dalembert leads the Rockets with 43 boards during this stretch, while Luis Scola has 33.

Scola averaged 19.0 points and 4.5 rebounds against Washington last season.

Martin led the Rockets with 51 points in those contests.