The Washington Wizards mercilessly eviscerated the Portland Trail Blazers in the nation’s capital on Monday, earning their 12th consecutive home win, 120-101. The Wizards led by as many as 30 points, behind the backcourt duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal that combined for 59 points, playing under 30 minutes apiece. For the Trail Blazers, it was an ugly game from start to finish—perhaps their worst of an already disappointing season.
The Wizards opened the first quarter on a 10-0 run. Wall and Beal eagerly exploited the Trail Blazers’ leaky perimeter defense, but it wasn’t just an assault on the rim that gave Portland fits; Washington rained threes early and often, eventually tallying 6-7 in the period.
It cannot be overstated how much of a liability Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is defending the pick-and-roll. He was regularly erased from plays by Marcin Gortat screens up top, allowing Wall clean looks. Although this would become a game-long (read: season-long) theme, he was able to shut down Wall in isolation on one occasion, which was a pleasant reminder that he is not helpless one-on-one.
Exacerbating the situation, the Trail Blazers as a whole were plagued by defensive miscues—the beneficiary of which was often Kelly Oubre, who burned Portland for 10 points in the last two minutes of the quarter (and finished the game with 18 points—one point short of his career-high). Allen Crabbe got mixed up on a switch and had to be physically pointed toward the Oubre before being punished with a wide-open 25-footer.
The Wizards finished the quarter on a 14-2 run, securing a 37-21 lead. The Wall/Beal/Oubre triumvirate accounted for 29 of those points, while the Trail Blazers’ highest scorers, Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and Al-Farouq Aminu, managed just 17.
Recognizing that his team was being manhandled at the rim, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts tested the seldom-seen lineup of Lillard, McCollum, Evan Turner, Aminu, and Meyers Leonard, to put a bigger body down low. This helped to marginally quell contributions from Washington’s big men, but it did little to slow the guards.
Portland’s guards, on the other hand, were having difficulty getting much done on the other end. Between the quick feet of Beal and the length of forward Otto Porter Jr., the Wizards were fine switching on screens as needed, and the paint was routinely clogged by the bigs—almost automatically.
The Trail Blazers passing got sloppy, and the Wizards capitalized in transition, scoring 18 points on 10 Portland turnovers in the first half. By the midway mark, the Wizards led 75-50, which, if you’re counting, means the Trail Blazers coughed up 37 and 38 points in back-to-back quarters.
At this point, the Trail Blazers were shooting 5-15 from deep (33.3 percent) to the Wizards 9-13 (69.2 percent) and struggling to create other kinds of shots. Beal led all scorers with 21 first-half points.
The Wizards cooled off a bit in the third. Aminu bothered Beal on one end and McCollum was looking to score more aggressively on the other, but a comeback was not in the cards. Frankly, the Trail Blazers were cold as well, and teams cannot clank their way to a resurgence. Open shots were not falling. The damage was done.
Wall continued to feast off turnovers, banking half of his eventual 24 points on fastbreak opportunities. When the score reached 95-65, Stotts subbed in Shabazz Napier, Crabbe, Turner, Noah Vonleh, and Leonard, hoisting the white flag. Lillard and McCollum would sit the remainder of the game after scoring a combined 36 points.
Portland trailed Washington by 24 points at period’s end, 101-77.
This is where those who missed the game can have a little box score fun and fudge game flow reality with numerical totals. The Wizards’ turnovers and personal fouls piled up on the stat sheet as the end of their bench piled onto the court, evening some disparities that once reflected the lopsided contest. The Trail Blazers bench brigade even made a run, bringing the game back within 20 points. The Wizards were having none of it, though, and head coach Scott Brooks allowed Wall and Beal to reenter for a short stint, firmly pressing heel to throat.
- Teams know that putting Lillard on the floor is a double-edged sword for Portland. On one hand, he was the only Trail Blazer who was able to score early on, which was hugely important to keep the eventual outcome plausibly reversible at halftime. On the other hand, he is almost comically bad at navigating screens. There came a point where he tried to go around Gortat left, then right, then left, and Wall—who shoots 31.8 percent from three—just pulled the trigger on a “why not?” bomb, sticking it with ease.
- The Trail Blazers’ need for an elite rim protector stems from their inability to stop penetration. That is predominantly on the guards. The Wizards finished the first half with Wall nonchalantly streaking to the hoop for the nth time and kicking it out to Porter in the corner. Wall could have easily finished for two, but Porter could just as easily finish for three, which, of course, he did. Understanding that Wall is one of the league’s elite players, the ability to seal off things like that on the perimeter would go a long way toward improving this team.
- You can’t come into Washington with a loose handle. The Wizards will expose it and beat you down the court.
The Trail Blazers have a day off to lick their wounds before traveling to Charlotte for a faceoff with the Hornets. Portland’s grasp on the eighth seed remains tenuous, as they sit seven games behind the Memphis Grizzlies and 0.5 games ahead of the Sacramento Kings. In order to hang on and make this road trip a success, the Trail Blazers need to have a short memory.
Help Blazer’s Edge send 2000 kids in need to see Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers play Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76’ers on March 9th. Here’s how!