Portland Trail Blazers (18-24) at Washington Wizards (20-19)
Jan. 16, 2017, 11:00 a.m. PST
Watch: CSNNW; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Festus Ezeli (out), Maurice Harkless (questionable), Ed Davis (questionable)
Wizards injuries: Daniel House (out), Ian Mahimni (out), Otto Porter (probable)
SBN Affiliate: Bullets Forever
After a disappointing 115-109 loss against the Orlando Magic that saw them trail 18-1 at one point, the Portland Trail Blazers travel to the nation’s capital to take on the Washington Wizards for a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day matinee game.
The Wizards, similarly to the Blazers, started off the season under-performing relative to expectations, but have turned it on as of late. They’ve won 11 straight at home, going 13-6 over that span. Washington features a fairly balanced starting offensive attack, but lacks firepower on the bench. Overall, the Wizards feature the 13th best ORtg, 19th best DRtg, and play at the league’s 14th quickest pace in the league—about what is expected from a middle-of-the-road team.
Washington’s recent resurgence is led by star point guard John Wall, averaging 23 points and 10 assists per game. Similar to Kyrie Irving, Wall is one of the quickest guards in the league with the ball in his hands. He’s not nearly the 3-point shooter that Irving is, hitting at a 32 percent clip, but he is a much better distributor. While Wall’s scoring is slightly down during Washington’s current 13-6 run, his assists and field goal percentage are up. Wall was also nearly solely responsible for the team’s comeback victories over the Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers last week.
His backcourt partner, Bradley Beal, is having a breakout year, putting up a career-high 22 points per game. After dealing with stress injuries in his legs over the last several seasons, Beal has managed to stay on the court, missing only a handful of games this year. The biggest leap that Beal has made is abandoning a handful of his inefficient long 2-pointers in favor of 3-pointers, where he shoots 41 percent on more than seven attempts per game.
The Wizards’ forward tandem of Otto Porter and Markieff Morris makes for a solid secondary option. Porter, after struggling in his first two years in the league, has transformed himself into a more aggressive player. He shoots 43 percent from the 3-point line and excels at cutting to the rim without the ball in his hands, generating easy Wall-to-Porter assists. Morris, putting up 13 points and six rebounds a night, can hit from anywhere in the midrange and has performed consistently all season.
Washington was expecting free agent acquisition Ian Mahimni to contribute tough interior defense at the center position when they signed him to a four-year, $64-million deal. Unfortunately for the team, Mahimni has played just one game and scored a total of one point while he’s dealt with knee problems. Instead, the Wizards have relied heavily on veteran center Marcin Gortat, who continues to produce. Gortat averages 11 points and 12 rebounds per game on 58 percent shooting from the floor. While he tends to struggle against more mobile big men, Gortat does a fine job on the defensive end when he can use his size to his advantage.
Off the bench, Washington runs out Trey Burke, Jason Smith, Marcus Thorton, and promising youngster Kelly Oubre. The Wizards’ bench doesn’t produce much on the offensive end and, as such, all of the starters average more than 30 minutes, with four of them at 34 minutes per game or more.
Portland may be without Maurice Harkless, who has been bothered by a calf strain. If he is unable to go, look for coach Terry Stotts to once again insert Allen Crabbe in the starting lineup. Crabbe has been on a hot streak of late, last game notwithstanding, averaging 14 points and 50 percent from the 3-point line in his last dozen games.
Ultimately, this game will likely be a battle of the guards, with Wall and Beal facing off against Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Portland’s guards combine to average 50.1 points per game, while Wall and Beal put up 45.3 of their own; whichever pairing is able to sustain its scoring punch through the entirety of the game is likely to lead its team to victory.
Blazer’s Edge Night 2017
Want to assist us in sending 2,000+ underprivileged Portland-area kids to a Trail Blazers game this spring? Check out Blazer’s Edge Night 2017 for information on how to get involved, and help spread the word!