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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Katrina McClain, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.

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Rockets' comeback falls short as Wizards win 104-103

Harden ties career-high with 44 point in romp

Posted: December 29, 2014 -- 10:50 pm.

HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- The Houston Rockets' offense and defense struggled Monday for enough minutes to result in a 104-103 loss to the Washington Wizards.

The Rockets (21-9) led the Wizards 27-24 after the first quarter; and for most of the second quarter. However, Washington's Bradley Beal nailed consecutive three-point shots in the final two minutes of the second period to send the Rockets to the locker room trailing 46-45 at the half.

The poor two minutes to end the second quarter pale in comparison to the brutal seven minutes and 38 seconds to begin the third quarter. The Rockets turned the ball over five times in the first 4:36 of the period to help the Wizards (22-8) lead 55-47. Then, future Hall-of-Famer Paul Pierce scored seven points during a 16-6 blitz to put the Rockets in a 71-53 hole with 4:22 remaining in the third quarter.

"We had a bad end of the second quarter; and, we had a bad start to the third," Kevin McHale lamented after the game. "(We) put ourselves in a big hole. The second unit came in and played much better."

Jason Terry and Joey Dorsey entered the game and kick-started a 6-0 run to trim the deficit to 12 points. The Rockets trailed 78-67 after three quarters.

Kevin McHale kept his bench players in the game in the fourth quarter; and, Brewer, Dorsey, and Terry each contributed during a 17-6 run to tie the game at 84.

The Wizards answered the run with a 9-0 burst to lead 93-84 with 3:51 left in the game. Trevor Ariza scored a lay-up; followed by a step back basket by James Harden; then, a steal by Brewer led to a lay-up by Patrick Beverley to cut the Rockets' deficit to 93-91 with 2:02 on the game clock.

After Beal sank two free throws for a 95-91 lead, Pierce swished a huge three-point shot for a 98-91 lead with only 72 seconds remaining which led to the Rockets calling their final timeout.

Each team committed a turnover before Beverley drained a three-point shot for a 98-94 Wizards' lead with 43.6 seconds remaining.

With no times-out left, the Rockets were forced to foul the Wizards to extend the game. Beal made all four of his foul shots and John Wall sank both his free throw attempts.

James Harden nailed two three-point shots in the final 7.3 seconds - including a three with 0.5 left; but, too little too late.

"As you can see, we were struggling," Harden said after the game. "Our second unit came in and played extremely hard and trimmed the lead and kept fighting and kept fighting. No matter what, we have to continue to play hard on both ends of the court."

Harden scored a team-high 33 points. Corey Brewer and Trevor Ariza each scored 15 points. Dwight Howard scored 13 points; however, Howard scored only two points in the second half. Newest Rockets player Josh Smith struggled in the game with three points and 4 rebounds in 22:39 minutes of action. Joey Dorsey scored five points and grabbed 6 rebounds in almost 19 minutes.

The Rockets turned the ball over 20 times which led to 18 points for the Wizards. Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 33 points. Paul Pierce scored 21 points on 7 for 9 field goal shooting and a perfect 6-for-6 from the foul line. John Wall added 13 points and a game-high 12 assists.

After the game, Patrick Beverley said, "We have to play with more fire. We have to play like we care. Right now, we are not doing it. We have to get better. It is as simple as that. It's not a certain person; but, as a team, we have to get better. We have to humble ourselves; and, I think this is a humbling experience. We have to get better. Simple as that."

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