Long-time Dungeons and Dragons players will remember the first-level spell Magic Missile as the Magic-User's best friend. It never missed, did 2-5 points of damage, and its incredibly quick casting time of 1 segment made it the ideal spell against opposing Wizards, disrupting their plans before they ever got off the ground.
The Portland Trail Blazers downed the Washington Wizards today using their own version of Magic Missile in the form of quick and plentiful long-range shots. Each volley scored exactly 3 points of damage, they never missed, and they knocked John Wall and company off their feet before they had a chance to execute a coherent game plan. Behind the barrage of inerrant strikes, Portland ran away with a 108-98 victory, leaving the Wizards in disarray and erasing bad memories of the debacle in Philadelphia on Saturday.
The Blazers started out this game in familiar fashion. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum alternated splash-downs from the perimeter against a Wizards defense that hadn't caught up to the early holiday start time. When Washington spun to meet that threat Portland ran the offense through Mason Plumlee in the suddenly-vacant middle of the floor. As the Wizards scrambled to cut off the rim against the new attack Portland calmly flipped the ball out to distance shooters. 32 points later the Blazers had claimed a lead of 15 and the Wizards were left scratching their heads, wondering how the day could have gone so far off script so soon.
Portland's bench performed semi-terribly on defense in the second period. The Blazers' defense would never reach the lofty levels of their offense in this game (the Wizards hovered near 50% from the field until garbage time and they missed plenty of open looks) but the second quarter stretch was particularly egregious. Failure to close on perimeter shooters yielded the same results for Portland in the second as it had for Washington in the first. The Wizards stabbed at the Blazers from the outside then scored easily at the rim against scrambling defenders. Portland's single saving grace was not allowing second-chance points, but Washington still managed 40 in the frame. The impressive first-quarter lead dwindled to 2, 59-57, at the half. It looked like we had a ballgame.
That delusion disappeared early in the third as the Blazers unleashed an unholy barrage of three-pointers on their helpless opponent. Lillard, McCollum, Allen Crabbe, Meyers Leonard, and Al-Farouq Aminu all hit from distance. 24 of Portland's 35 points in the third came via shots beyond the arc. Just over 4 minutes past intermission Portland's lead returned to double digits. It would never recede. The Blazers pushed the margin to 21 in the fourth before Washington closed the final margin to 10 on Garrett Temple's last-second three. By that time Portland's garbage-time unit had gotten a good run and the Blazers a feel-good holiday win.
When famed Trail Blazers coach Rick Adelman took over for Mike Schuler, he stated one of the planks of his philosophy publicly, which we'll paraphrase here. "It's a game of mistakes," Adelman said. "No night is perfect. How you deal with mistakes, what you do around them, determines your success."
That's pretty much the story of this game. It wasn't the Blazers' best outing. They committed many turnovers and forced few. They got outrun. They allowed the opponent too many easy shots and largely unfettered passing. But it didn't matter because Portland rebounded, shared the ball, and Washington committed as many errors in return. The Wizards suffered from an utter lack of commitment to closing out following Portland's initial two passes. Once the ball had penetrated the lane, Washington never showed an interest in following it again. In a game that might have given a few coaches gray hairs, Portland did a far better job playing around their mistakes than Washington did.
To wit: Portland's 17-31 shooting (55%) from the arc erased a whole lot of shortcomings. 4 offensive rebounds for the Wizards for the entire game spoke well of Portland's determination on the boards.
Five players carried this game for the Blazers.
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combined for 41 points on 16-32 shooting. Lillard fired 6-10 from distance. They were the battering rams.
Mason Plumlee had 10 points and 11 rebounds but his 7 assists were just as key. He operated well in the lane, keeping Washington's defense off kilter when they tried to adjust to the guards. In this way he protected Lillard's and McCollum's flanks.
Allen Crabbe and Meyers Leonard scored 14 and 18 respectively, Crabbe shooting 6-9 and Leonard 7-10. Between them they hit 6 three-pointers. After the gate was down and the enemy soldiers held at bay, Leonard and Crabbe strolled in and looted the castle, eventually turning the game into something no longer worth fighting for.
Noah Vonleh had 9 rebounds in 17 minutes. Strong.
Gerald Henderson's offensive possessions are like stopping to eat at small-town diners on a long road trip. You might get the best meal you've ever had or you might walk away with a nasty case of food poisoning. Either way, you don't know until you've seen it.
Links and Such
The Blazers return home to host the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. Pacific.
Please welcome Miro Frankzerda to our Instant Recap team.
Bullets Forever will have the Washington perspective.
Wouldn't you feel good about sending 2000 underprivileged kids to see Damian Lillard and the Blazers play? We're doing exactly that when the Sacramento Kings come to Portland on March 28th! Your help makes a huge difference and it's easy. You can donate tickets to the cause through this link:
Promo Code: BLAZERSEDGE
Ticket Costs range from $7-13 (There is a $5 processing fee per order.)
You can also call our ticket rep, Lisa Swan, directly at 503-963-3966. You will need to indicate to her that you are donating the tickets you order to Blazer's Edge Night.
PLEASE consider sending a child or two! Donations have been strong but we've had a LOT of requests and we're not to 2000 yet. Help if you can.