Washington Wizards (39-24) at Portland Trail Blazers (28-35)
March 11, 2016, 7:00 PST
Watch: CSNNW; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Evan Turner (out), Ed Davis (out), Festus Ezeli (out)
Wizards injuries: None
SBN Affiliate: Bullets Forever
After defeating the Philadelphia 76ers in a thrilling OT victory that saw center Jusuf Nurkic put up a historic stat-line, The Portland Trail Blazers are back in action against the red hot Washington Wizards.
The Wizards, who at one point this season were 9-14, have rattled off a 23-6 stretch to close within one game of the second-place Boston Celtics and three games of the Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Wizards are led by guards John Wall and Bradley Beal, one of the elite backcourt duos in the NBA. Combining to average more than 45 points per game, Wall and Beal are an exceedingly complementary pairing. Beal excels at the 3-point line, shooting over 40 percent on seven looks per game, while Wall is one of the fastest end-to-end players in the NBA who prefers to distribute or finish around the basket.
The major difference for Washington this year is that their role players are beginning to emerge into quality pieces. Mercurial power forward Markieff Morris has settled nicely into his role, averaging 14 points and six rebounds while being able to shoot a high percentage from the paint out to the 3-point line. Small forward Otto Porter, considered a potential bust after his first two seasons, has emerged as a stellar option in coach Scott Brooks lineup. Porter Jr., just like Morris, is averaging 14 points and six rebounds, but is shooting 52 percent from the floor and leading the NBA with his 45 percent shooting from 3-point territory.
In the middle, the Wizards feature veteran banger Marcin Gortat, putting up 11 points and 11 rebounds per game. While Gortat has never been an elite center, he has been the model of consistency since the 2010-11 season—always between 11 and 15 points and eight and 11 rebounds per night.
Off the bench, Washington features young forward Kelly Oubre, Ian Mahimni (who’s finally healthy!) and, acquired in a trade-deadline deal with the Brooklyn Nets, Bojan Bogdanovic. Bogdanovic has been a revelation since joining the Wizards, averaging nearly 17 points per game while shooting 54 percent from beyond the arc.
For the Blazers, Washington poses a significant challenge. During Portland’s current season-high, four-game win streak, they’ve earned victories over the likes of the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers; the Wizards are currently playing like legit title contenders and have the offensive backcourt to fully take advantage of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum’s defensive lapses.
Of course, new center Jusuf Nurkic has had something to say about opponents getting into the paint since he joined the Blazers, causing opponents to alter their shots or rethink driving to the rim entirely. His matchup with Gortat should be particularly entertaining, as both players are big bruisers who like to body up down low.
Tonight’s game is going to be a real test for Portland. They are turning things around and appear to be playing their best basketball of the season as we enter the home stretch. Tonight, we’ll get to see how they stack up against one of the NBA’s best teams.