Injury-riddled Wizards hang around but still get blasted by Rockets

Injury-riddled Wizards hang around but still get blasted by Rockets

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 4

Capital One Arena was eerily quiet an hour before tip-off Tuesday. The song on the loudspeaker had just changed to a low, slow R&B track, and there was only one player on the court — the Houston Rockets’ Dillon Brooks, who was going through his warmup routine with a handful of coaches surrounding him. The other side of the floor was empty, a particularly odd sight in an NBA arena on a game night.

But all of the Washington Wizards who would have been warming up were injured.

The Wizards, who went on to fall, 137-114, are so dinged up that they had more players in street clothes on the bench than they did players in uniform.

In addition to Bilal Coulibaly (wrist fracture) and Isaiah Livers (hip inflammation), both of whom are out for the season, Washington was without Kyle Kuzma (shoulder soreness), Deni Avdija (knee contusion), Tyus Jones (back sprain), Marvin Bagley III (back sprain), Eugene Omoruyi (ankle sprain) and Landry Shamet (calf strain).

Despite all the sprains and strains on the injury report — which can (but don’t always) indicate a longer recovery time — interim coach Brian Keefe had no updates.

“I’m sure a lot of the stuff will be day-to-day, but we will update you guys,” Keefe said.

As decimated as they were, the Wizards (11-58) played the Rockets tight until late in the third quarter, when Jalen Green broke loose to turn in a nine-point run by himself and swing momentum in Houston’s favor. The third-year guard was a handful all night and matched a career high with 42 points to power the Rockets (33-35).

“We had some defensive lapses. Jalen Green got hot, hit some threes,” said Wizards guard Jules Bernard, who had 16 points off the bench. “Once he got going, and then we tried to blitz him … we had a tough little defensive stretch for about five minutes, and that’s really the game.”

The Wizards continued to get solid minutes from their down-the-roster group. Corey Kispert set the pace early on the way to 16 points, including four three-pointers, but the bench — Justin Champagnie, Jared Butler, Anthony Gill and Bernard — combined for 59 points and kept Washington afloat early. Jordan Poole had 13 points while shooting 5 for 18.

Here’s what else to know about the Wizards’ loss, which was their fifth in a row and their third in four days:

Coulibaly was one of the many Wizards stuck on the bench Tuesday, sporting a sweatshirt and glasses after his rookie season was cut short. In 63 games, the 19-year-old averaged 8.4 points and 4.1 rebounds while shooting 43.5 percent over 27.2 minutes.

Keefe said the Wizards are disappointed for Coulibaly. But looking on the bright side, he gets a jump-start on the offseason work he can do without further harming his wrist.

“This guy has shown growth month by month, week by week, game by game. … He’s going to be a staple for us going forward,” Keefe said. “He’s going to have a tremendous offseason. He can start some of that right away. … We couldn’t be more impressed with how he handled himself and his growth as a person and on the court this year.”

The Wizards do have an extra body to call on for reinforcement after Tristan Vukcevic arrived from his Serbia-based club. Keefe said the 7-foot center was not quite ready to make his NBA debut Tuesday but is “getting closer.” The 21-year-old was on the bench but not in uniform.

“We’re getting him acclimated to how we do everything — our development system, our team, stuff we run offensively and defensively,” Keefe said. “He’s been awesome in all that stuff, so it’s just something we’re going day by day with.”

The brave members of a painfully thin crowd at Capital One Arena who stayed until the end got a treat. The fans who chanted “We want Bobi!” got their wish when Houston’s fan-favorite, commercial-starring, 7-foot-4 center Boban Marjanovic checked in to scattered but enthusiastic applause with 2:07 left. He scored five points.

Bernard had a memorable moment against the Serb — he managed to hit a floater over him.

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