With Magic Johnson watching, Wizards rookie John Wall put on some showtime of his own.
Johnson's 138 triple-doubles were second only to Oscar Robertson in NBA history.
"He's a legend, a Hall of Famer, somebody that you would look up too," Wall said. "He had the 'Showtime' in him, won championships. You try to reach the goals he got but do it in your own fashionable way."
The 6-foot-4 Wall had his own highlight moment when he showed off his athleticism early in the second quarter. With Gilbert Arenas leading the break and the defender taking away Andray Blatche running down the lane, Wall raced down the right wing and skied to snare a lofted underhand lob pass with his right hand and slam it home.
"I'm glad he read my mind or it would have went out of bounds," said Arenas, who scored five points.
Yao Ming missed most of the game after he strained a tendon in his leg in the first quarter.
Washington used a 10-0 run late in the fourth quarter to pull away after blowing an 11-point lead.
Blatche finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Wizards and Al Thornton scored 20 points, including the go-ahead basket off a pass from Wall with 4:53 left to give Washington the lead for good at 86-85.
Wizards coach Flip Saunders showed wall video of John Stockton before the game.
"I wasn't forcing too much tonight," Wall said. "Finding my teammates, making the right reads. Sometimes I get too excited trying to make a spectacular play instead of the simple play. Tonight I think I did the right thing with the simple plays."
Yao played the first 6:14 of the game and was held scoreless, making it the first time he has failed to score in an NBA game since November 5, 2002, his fourth game in the league.
Kevin Martin scored 31 points for the Rockets, who have lost six of seven. Martin came away impressed by the No. 1 overall pick.
"He seems like he loves the game," Martin said. "He gets his teammates involved. You can't call him a true leader right now, but you can see the leadership qualities in him."
Luis Scola scored 24 points for the Rockets before fouling out. He and Martin combined to score Houston's first 17 points in the fourth quarter, including seven in a row that quickly put the Rockets up 85-84.
"I was disappointed again," Adelman said. "Every game we've had this year -- except for the one we won -- right down to the fourth quarter, we have a chance to win, and we don't get it done."
The Wizards were playing in their first game since Saunders walked out of practice on Monday and then called for a second session later that day, frustrated with his young team's lack of urgency after starting the season with 1-4 record.
Before the game, Saunders said he wanted to prevent his young squad from "picking up too many bad habits."
Saunders said he has been pleased with the effort in the subsequent practices.
Yao sat out the entire 2009-10 season after undergoing surgery to repair his broken left foot. The Rockets have been limiting Yao's minutes early in the season and before the game, coach Rick Adelman said no decision has been made on increasing Yao's minutes. "He is coming off a 15-, 16-month layoff. He's not the Yao from two years ago," Adelman said.
Notes: Arenas, questionable for the game due to soreness in his left knee, came off the bench and scored five points in 23 minutes. "Right now we're in a situation, until we see he can really go hard in back-to-backs and get that weight down a little bit, he's not going to be able to play major, major minutes," Saunders said before the game. ... Rockets G Kyle Lowry, who missed the last two games with back spasms, was able to play, but Adelman said he's not 100 percent. ... Johnson sat courtside with Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. ... Yi Jianlian scored a season-high 13 points for the Wizards.