Referee Derek Richardson looks at water leaking from the ceiling in Washington. Play was stopped while the leak was repaired. (Harry E. Walker / McClatchy)
Washington — Dwight Howard played the role of NBA rain delay entertainer, playing one-on-one with some kids from the front row and playfully rejecting their shots. Maybe a baseball team should borrow him the next time some summer storms are in the forecast.
The pair of stoppages, due to a leak in the Verizon Center roof on a rainy day, would have been more than enough to make the game memorable, but why stop there? Let’s have Howard and his heavily favored team play like gangbusters each time the water was mopped up. Then blow a 25-point lead. Then come from five down in the fourth quarter to win it.
Yep, that Houston Rockets’ 114-107 win over the Washington Wizards on Saturday night was somethin’ else altogether.
“The craziest game ever?” Howard said. “Yeah, I would say that.”
Long after the delays of 35 and 22 minutes, James Harden tied the score with a driving layup with 2:33 to play, then gave the Rockets the lead again — this time for good — with a three-point play with 1:54 remaining. He finished with 25 points to lead the Rockets, who made only four field goals in the final period yet closed with a 17-5 run.
“It was a long game,” Harden said. “A leakage in the court. I’ve never been a part of something like that before.”
Neither had Howard, who ran the gamut of good and bad. He did the most to keep the fans engaged during the interruptions in play, signing an autograph or two and playing with the youngsters. The crowd reacted with exaggerated gasps when Howard would slap a shot in the seats — “They told me to protect the house,” Howard joked — and cheered when one of the kids scored.
“I’ve got to work on my defense,” Howard deadpanned, “if I want to get defensive player of the year.”
Howard also dominated the game well into the second half before falling apart in the fourth quarter, committing four turnovers and missing both of his field goals and all four free throw attempts. He finished with 23 points.
“I did OK,” Howard said. “I think in the second half I didn’t finish like I needed to. I wasn’t as aggressive as I was in the first half.”
Terrence Jones added 19 points and 17 rebounds, and Jeremy Lin added 18 points and eight assists for the Rockets, who are 1-1 halfway through a four-game road trip.
John Wall led Washington’s comeback and finished with 23 points and 10 assists, Trevor Ariza had 23 points and 14 rebounds, and Kevin Seraphin — another catalyst in Washington’s surge — had all of his season-high 18 points in the second half. The Wizards lost their fourth straight home game and fell to 2-14 against teams that are currently .500 or better.
“Now I wish they would have just canceled it,” Washington coach Randy Wittman said.
The leak caused the officials to hit the pause button 9 seconds into the second quarter and again at the start of the second half. Trash cans and an array of towels were spread at the midcourt line close to the scorer’s table. Several people were in the rafters, apparently trying to solve the problem.
The wet mess was an obvious black eye for the Wizards franchise, and the team seemed intent on matching it with their play. After shooting 62 percent in the first quarter, Washington made only 6 of 24 field goal attempts (25 percent) for the rest of the half. The Rockets went on a 34-13 run to seemingly break open a tie game after the first delay.
The towels and trash cans reappeared after halftime. Wittman said the leak was finally stopped after a tarp was laid on the arena’s roof. The Rockets, already with a 17-point lead, again were able to get themselves in gear faster than the Wizards, going on a 15-7 run after the restart.
But the Wizards eventually regrouped and came back. Then the Rockets came back. The wet floor never did.
“Obviously we’ve had a lot of rain here,” Wittman said. “And obviously there’s a hole up there somewhere.”
(At) Toronto 96, Brooklyn 80: DeMar DeRozan scored 26 points, Patrick Patterson had 14 points and 12 rebounds and the Raptors stopped the Nets’ five-game winning streak. Terrence Ross scored 14 points, John Salmons had 13 and Kyle Lowry finished with 12 as Toronto won for the seventh time in nine games.
N.Y. Knicks 102, (at) Philadelphia 92: Amare Stoudemire scored 21 points and Carmelo Anthony added 18. J.R. Smith returned from a one-game benching for unsportsmanlike conduct and contributed 11 points for the Knicks (14-22), who have won four straight. Anthony added nine rebounds and seven assists. Stoudemire went 8 for 10 from the field.
(At) Chicago 103, Charlotte 97: D.J. Augustin had 20 points and 12 assists and Joakim Noah added 19 points and 14 rebounds. Chicago had seven players score in double figures in its fifth consecutive victory. The Bulls (17-18) also improved to 3-0 since they traded All-Star Luol Deng to Cleveland late Monday night.
(At) Oklahoma City 101, Milwaukee 85: Kevin Durant scored 33 points and Serge Ibaka had 17 points and 17 rebounds, and the Thunder ended a two-game skid. Durant missed his first eight shots but made 8 of 10 the rest of the way. Jeremy Lamb added 17 points for the Thunder, who had lost four of six. Oklahoma City scored just 14 points in the first quarter and 38 in the first half before heating up and hitting 63 after the break.
New Orleans 110, (at) Dallas 107: Dirk Nowitzki scored a season-high 40 points, and the Dallas Mavericks recovered from a cold start for their second win in as many days against the Pelicans. Nowitzki scored 20 points in the third quarter and hit seven straight shots after starting just 2 of 9 from the field.
(At) Denver 120, Orlando 94: Kenneth Faried had 17 points and nine rebounds, and Randy Foye and Evan Fournier scored 18 points each. Quincy Miller had 16 points and 11 rebounds — both career highs — for Denver, which has won five straight after losing eight in a row. Seven Nuggets scored at least 13 points, including J.J. Hickson, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
(At) Portland 112, Boston 104: LaMarcus Aldridge had 21 points and 13 rebounds as the Trail Blazers handed the Celtics their eighth straight loss. The Trail Blazers (28-9) rallied from a 10-point second-quarter deficit. Wesley Matthews scored 18 points and Nicolas Batum had 16. Damian Lillard and Robin Lopez each had 15 points. Lopez also had 13 rebounds.