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.
"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."
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 nine 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 the play on the court. 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."
The Rockets are 11-3 against the Eastern Conference; the Wizards are 3-9 against the West. ... Houston F Chandler Parsons missed his third consecutive game with a sore right knee. ... Washington has lost seven of eight at home, another frustration for Wittman. "We just go out and play like it's an AAU game," the coach said.
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