- The Washington Times - Friday, December 29, 2017

Guess what? The Wizards are under .500 against teams with a losing record this season. A paltry 9-10. Guess what else? They beat the good teams. Washington is 11-6 against teams with winning records. They are a tough group to figure.

Friday night, they beat the Houston Rockets 121-103 in Capital One Arena. Three points from the evening:

Back to up. Nothing defined the ups and downs of the team this season more than this week. Monday, they played excellent basketball in Boston to beat the Celtics for the first time in nine games. Boston has the best record in the Eastern Conference. It is 15-5 at home. The game was on national TV on Christmas Day. A significant win. That was followed by Wednesday’s debacle in Atlanta when the Wizards lost by double-digits to the league’s worst team. Then came Friday with its predictable result: Washington plays well to beat the Rockets, the second-best team in the Western Conference. There are some caveats to consider: Chris Paul returned for the first time since Dec. 20. He looked rusty. The Rockets were on the second night of a back-to-back after a hard loss in Boston. Clint Capela and Nene did not play. But, for the Wizards, any win is crucial after so many giveaways in the first half of the season.

“This is a bold statement, but I like coaching this team better,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “That other team, it’s no fun. It’s no fun. It’s actually not fun at all. Hopefully, we can be this team more often.”

Spreading on the wings. The Wizards have been forced to play small-ball more often this week and their wing players have been potent. Otto Porter has an eFG of 72.4 percent the last four games. Kelly Oubre is at 63.3 percent. Brooks lauded Oubre after the game against the Celtics for being “solid.” That may sound like low praise, but it’s the type of basketball Brooks has begged him to play since taking over in Washington. Oubre, like so many others, had a bad night in Atlanta. He was 4-for-7 from the field, but it was his defense against savvy Marco Belinelli that became the issue. Belinelli tore Oubre up once he entered. Friday before the game against Houston, Brooks said that Belinelli beat them with “eighth-grade stuff.” Friday, Brooks was pleased with Oubre after the game. “Like I keep going back to, when he’s focused defensively — he didn’t get backdoored tonight,” Brooks said. “He didn’t get beat on a screen tonight. He didn’t get beat by not paying attention like he did last game. When he does that, he gives us a great chance to win at that position.”

Satoransky bounces into the highlights. Anyone who is in the arena early enough, or at Wizards practice, knows that Tomas Satoransky may be the best dunker on the team. He finally put that on display Friday night when he turned the corner and tomahawked a right-handed dunk on Zhou Qi that caused the bench to go bonkers. Satoransky said afterward he expects the dunk to receive a lot of run in his native Czech Republic. Satoransky was also relieved he finally got a dunk on someone in a game. His teammates were impressed. “‘Bout time, dammit,” Bradley Beal said. “I wish I was 6-7 sometimes, man I’d get up there and put a few people in the rim myself. Sato’s probably got the most bounce on the team. It’s about time he exploited it. I need him to do it on DeAndre [Jordan] or something. We don’t play them no more, but we need a bigger dunk, but we’ll take it.”

• Todd Dybas can be reached at tdybas@washingtontimes.com.

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