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Wall, Beal lead Wizards past Rockets

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HOUSTON — The signs of maturation were myriad for Washington Wizards guards John Wall and Bradley Beal on Monday night, with the most obvious example coming via their late-game composure at the free-throw line.

Beal and Wall combined to sink all 10 of their attempts from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter, including going 6-for-6 inside the final minute to carry the Wizards to a 104-103 win over the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center.

Beal finished with a game-high-tying 33 points, keyed by his 5-for-11 shooting from behind the arc and 10-for-10 performance at the line. Wall chipped in 13 points and 12 assists, including two free throws with 5.5 seconds remaining that clinched the victory for the Wizards (22-8).

“You want those guys to be your good free-throw shooters coming down the stretch, Bradley and John in particular,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “And they want to get fouled. They want that situation.”

Having pulled Houston (21-9) even at 84-84 with a fade-away jumper at the 5:07 mark of the fourth quarter that erased an 18-point deficit, Rockets guard James Harden later completed a three-point play and drilled a pair of 3-pointers inside the final 19.7 seconds. He matched Beal with 33 points on 12-for-23 shooting and added a team-high-tying six rebounds and four assists.

After Houston clawed into that deadlock the Wizards responded with a 9-0 run featuring a Beal transition 3 and a fast-break dunk by center Marcin Gortat that followed a turnover by Rockets forward Corey Brewer.

“We were allowing too many small things to happen as far as giving up offensive rebounds and cutters coming behind us,” Harden said. “We were digging ourselves in a hole and were trying to fight harder to get out of the hole.”

Wizards forward Paul Pierce, who added 21 points, nailed a crucial 3-pointer that pushed the Washington lead to 98-91 with 1:12 left. But the Rockets kept pushing despite playing on the back end of back-to-back games.

“We’ve got to get better,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “Last night (in a loss at San Antonio) we had 25 turnovers. Tonight we had defensive assignments where we didn’t do what we were supposed to do. We had turnovers. We didn’t hit the open man. We’re going to have to get ourselves and work our way back through and back into sync.”

Forward Trevor Ariza and guard Patrick Beverley tallied 15 and 10 points, respectively, but shot a combined 4 for 14 on 3-pointers. Houston missed 20 of 29 treys. Brewer added 15 points off the bench.

The Wizards showcased what was to come in the third quarter with their aggressive close to the second. Trailing 40-33 and having converted just four baskets over the opening seven minutes of the period, Washington suddenly began to attack the rim with vigor.

Pierce began the surge with a three-point play before Gortat added a layup. The Wizards then got a putback by Wall and two Beal treys, helping to cap the half with a 13-5 run for a 46-45 lead at intermission.

The onslaught continued in earnest in the third quarter, with Washington opening an 18-point lead by forcing six turnovers while shooting 73.3 percent. The Rockets answered a 7-2 Wizards spurt with a Beverley 3, but managed just one basket over the next four minutes.

“We have to continue to realize that we can get a lot of easy points if we just get stops,” Beal said. “Whenever we get stops the other team gets frustrated, and we have to take advantage of that. And we did that tonight.”

NOTES: The game was delayed 35 minutes early in the first quarter after arena officials were forced to change the basket stanchion in front of the Rockets bench. The rim on that basket was crooked. … Wizards F/G Martell Webster was expected to make his season debut after missing the first 29 games following offseason back surgery. However, he did not play Monday. Webster averaged 10.6 points and 3.4 rebounds over his first two seasons in Washington. … Rockets G James Harden was named Western Conference Player of the Week for the second time this season after averaging 34.7 points, 7.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.0 blocks over three games last week. Harden ties Tracy McGrady for the second-most such honors in franchise history with seven (Hakeem Olajuwon was honored 12 times).

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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