HOUSTON (AP) — The Washington Wizards cruised to a win in Randy Wittman’s first game as their head coach, but he knows they won’t all be that easy.
Looking for their first road win, Wittman and the Wizards visit the Houston Rockets on Friday night.
Washington fired Flip Saunders on Tuesday after a 2-15 start, replacing him with Wittman, an assistant on Saunders’ staff and former head coach in Cleveland and Minnesota.
The Wizards (3-15) won their first game under Wittman, rolling past Charlotte 92-75 on Wednesday night. They gave up their fewest points of the season and less than 100 for the first time in eight games.
Nick Young scored 20 points while Andray Blatche added 17 points and 10 rebounds.
“I can’t honestly say we needed a new voice,” Blatche said. “We just needed somebody to actually check us – like Wittman did. That’s what we needed.”
While defeating Charlotte, which fell to 3-16, may not have been a challenge, things now get more difficult. Wittman’s team plays the next two on the road, where it is 0-7, then returns home to face Chicago on Monday before visiting Orlando on Wednesday.
“There’s going to be periods where we fall back,” Wittman said. “It’s my job to get them out of it as quickly as I can.”
Washington started 0-25 on the road last season. While this team hopes to avoid such a dubious mark, winning in Houston has been tough. The Wizards have lost eight of nine there and 15 of their last 17.
The Rockets (10-8) will also be eager to bounce back after their seven-game winning streak was snapped with a 105-99 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday.
Houston seemed to be on its way to a 12th straight home victory over the Bucks after building a nine-point halftime lead, but Milwaukee outscored the Rockets 30-19 in the third quarter.
Kevin Martin scored 29 points, but Kyle Lowry was held to eight – nearly half his season average – two nights after recording a triple-double. Lowry, shooting 39.6 percent this season, missed his first 13 shots before finishing 2 of 16 from the field.
Despite the loss, the mood wasn’t too somber in Houston’s locker room.
“It’s just one loss,” Luis Scola said. “We didn’t think we were going to win every game. … It doesn’t matter if we lose one game, it’s the things that we did wrong that’s important.”
The Rockets were most frustrated with their defensive effort after allowing the Bucks to connect on 14 of 29 from 3-point range. It was the second straight home game they allowed 100 points after holding their first seven visitors to an average of 89.9 points.
“We can’t win games when we play defense like that,” forward Chandler Parsons said. “We have to have a much better effort on the defensive end. We made shots, so that can’t be the excuse tonight.”
Houston won 114-106 at the Verizon Center on Jan. 16, getting 25 points from Martin and 20 from Samuel Dalembert while overcoming John Wall’s career-high 38.
Martin has scored 24.1 points per game in 11 career meetings against the Wizards. He’s only averaged more (25.8) against Memphis.