HOUSTON (AP) — On a minutes restriction because of a sore knee, Houston’s John Wall had to wait until the seven-minute mark of the fourth quarter to re-enter Tuesday night’s game against his former team.
When he finally checked in, it didn’t take long for him to put a punctuation mark on a solid performance by the Rockets.
Wall scored 24 points to help Houston to a 107-88 victory over Russell Westbrook and the Washington Wizards.
Wall had 15 points and four assists by halftime, including a left-handed layup that came after a nifty behind the back move and put Houston up 53-45 in the second quarter. He cooled off in the third, but got going again in the fourth to secure the win in his second game back after missing five with a sore left knee.
Houston was leading by six when Wall re-entered the game. He scored five quick points before finding Victor Oladipo in the corner near the Washington bench for a 3-pointer to make it 93-79.
“I was itching to get back in in the fourth quarter,” he said. “I wanted to play, especially against my old team. And we kind of separated ourselves right there.”
Wall was selected by Washington with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft and spent his entire career with the Wizards before he was traded to Houston in December for Westbrook and a future first-round pick.
He insisted he didn’t think he had anything to prove against the Wizards. But he did admit that he’s having a great time with his new team after a rocky ending to his tenure in Washington.
“I haven’t played in two years so this is fun,” he said. “To be somewhere where you’re wanted, that’s the most important thing. I never want to be anywhere where I’m not wanted and I feel like this organization wanted me here and they’ve shown nothing but love and trust for me since Day One.”
Washington coach Scott Brooks was impressed by Wall’s performance after watching him work his way back from injury over the past two seasons.
“I’m happy for him,” Brooks said. “I’m not happy that he won tonight, but I’m happy that he’s back. He fought hard … to come back and I hope he has a healthy year.”
Wall said Tuesday’s game wasn’t too emotional but that he expects to feel more when he returns to Washington later this season. He added that he’s tired of talking about his former team and doesn’t want to discuss the Wizards again until that game on Feb. 15.
The Wizards called a timeout after Houston’s 8-0 run, and Wall yelled and jumped as he looked at the opposing bench before bounding back to the Houston side.
Wall and Westbrook were both given technical fouls soon after that when they jawed at each other as Westbrook prepared to shoot free throws after being fouled by DeMarcus Cousins.
Bradley Beal made a 3-pointer with about 3½ minutes left to trim Houston’s lead to 10, but Wall hit a 3 seconds later and Cousins, who had 19 points and 11 rebounds, added two free throws to make it 99-84.
“We made some critical mistakes and didn’t make some shots (to) close out the game,” Brooks said.
Oladipo and Eric Gordon added 20 points apiece to help the Rockets to their third straight win.
Beal scored 33 points to give him at least 25 in each of his 12 games this season, extending a franchise record. Westbrook, who spent one season in Houston, had 19 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds.
Wizards: Were missing six players because of health and safety protocols. … Robin Lopez had 10 points.
Rockets: Christian Wood missed his third straight game with a sprained right ankle. … Danuel House had two points and a rebound in his return after missing four games with back spasms and seven because of health and safety protocols.
STARTING TO MESH
Tuesday was the first game that Wall and Oladipo played together after Oladipo, who came to Houston in the James Harden trade, sat out for rest on Saturday night. Coach Stephen Silas said the offense was a bit disjointed for much of the game while the two adjusted to playing together, but he thought they began to mesh in the fourth quarter.
“The fourth quarter was good,” Silas said. “They were figuring out how they can make each other better and play to each other’s strengths. … It’s a work in progress for sure.”
Wizards: Visit New Orleans on Wednesday night before returning home to play Atlanta on Friday night.
Rockets: Host Portland on Thursday night before embarking on a four-game trip beginning Saturday night in New Orleans.
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