HOUSTON — With his team under constant assault down the stretch Monday night, Bradley Beal did what needed to be done: He played with confidence.
Beal scored a season-high 33 points, including six free throws in the final two minutes, and Washington survived a furious fourth-quarter rally by the Rockets for a 104-103 victory.
“I was just being aggressive, taking what the defense gave me,” said Beal, who also went 5-for-9 from 3-point range. “I was fortunate to have a lot of open shots.”
Paul Pierce added 21, and John Wall finished with 13 to go with a game-high 12 assists for Washington, which got its third straight victory to open a five-game road trip.
Washington improved to 22-8 to match its best start after 30 games in franchise history. The last time they did it was the 1974-75 season.
James Harden scored 33 points — including nine in the final 20 seconds, capped by a 3-pointer with under a second to go in regulation — and Corey Brewer added 15 from the bench for the Rockets (21-9), who dropped their third straight.
Trevor Ariza, facing his former team for the first time since signing with Houston in the offseason, finished with 15 points and five rebounds.
The win was far from perfect for Washington, which led by 18 points in the third quarter before succumbing to sloppy play.
Houston outscored the Wizards on second-chance points (18-9) and points in the paint (50-34) but was plagued by poor shooting.
Washington had no such issues, shooting nearly 93 percent from the free-throw line and 44.4 percent from beyond the arc. Beal’s steady hand from the free-throw line helped the Wizards avoid a disaster.
“It was me shooting with confidence and playing with confidence,” Beal said.
Washington coach Randy Wittman will take it.
“Listen, it’s hard to win in this league,” Wittman said. “What am I taking away from this? It’s a good win to start this road trip. There are things we can do better and we learn from them. But in my book there is not a bad win.”
The Wizards opened the second half on a 9-4 run over the first two minutes and never trailed after that. The Rockets didn’t help themselves, committing five turnovers during the span.
Beal helped give the Wizards a 46-45 halftime lead with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
The Wizards trailed by seven after Patrick Beverley’s layup with 4:46 left in the half, but Beal led a 13-4 surge in the final four minutes with back-to-back 3-pointers.
“We had a bad end of the second quarter and we had a bad start to the third,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “We put ourselves in a big hole.”
Houston had early success against Wall. He entered the game averaging 17.4 points and 11.7 assists on just under 50-percent shooting in December.
“It was a big win,” Wall said. “We almost gave it away with me giving away two turnovers at the end and giving them opportunities to score, but guys stepped up and made big plays for us.”
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