The Trail Blazers suffered their first loss of the season by falling to the Wizards 125-124 in overtime. Damian Lillard provided plenty of heroics down the stretch, but his 29 points weren’t enough to lift Portland to victory. Thanks to Markieff Morris’ three-point shooting, Washington successfully avoided starting the season 0-3. Neither team put together extended runs of turnover-free basketball, which led to a gritty finish. The Blazers had plenty of chances, but they couldn’t keep the Wizards away from the win column.
Turnovers with a side of turnovers
The Blazers looked to be off and running early in the first quarter. The starters provided a cushion for Portland’s second unit before departing the court. Through two games, the reserves have played excellently. Tonight, turnovers unraveled their efforts. Choppy play halted Evan Turner from getting his teammates involved.
After impacting the game in the first half, turnovers derailed both offenses in the third quarter. Both teams stumbled, and combined for a paltry 31 points in the period. The action in the fourth quarter recovered slightly as both sides decided to slow down the pace. It still wasn’t pretty, but the rhythm was much better from each team.
The Wizards were desperately trying to avoid opening their season with three straight losses, and it showed down the stretch. Morris willed Washington to victory on and off the court. The scrappy swingman exploited the Blazers’ defense with his outside shooting. Morris connected on four three-pointers after the conclusion of the third quarter. Even while he was on the bench, Morris couldn’t resist getting into the action. Late in the game, he snagged Seth Curry’s shorts from the sidelines. Antics aside, it was a spirited performance from Morris.
The Blazers provided plenty of big time shots to warrant a victory, but the Wizards weren’t going to be denied.
Nurkic and Collins put to the test
Washington did a superb job of making Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins uncomfortable. The Wizards routinely looked for Nurkic in space. John Wall initiated the offense early, and targeted Nurkic on drives before Portland’s defense could set up. The Wizards followed up that tactic by putting the big fella’s pick-and-roll defense to the test. As a result, Morris found plenty of daylight on pick-and-pop shots. Late in overtime the Blazers decided to switch on a Morris screen for Wall, which led to Wall’s game-clinching midrange shot over Nurkic.
Collins’ night was stymied by Jeff Green. Coach Scott Brooks decided to play Green at center, and it tied Portland’s young big man in knots. Due to Green’s outside shooting ability, Collins couldn’t sneak into the paint to help on defense. Offensively, the second-year big man couldn’t play Green off the court. Collins will struggle to bully smaller opponents in the paint until he develops his base.
Rough Shooting Night
Lillard and McCollum shot a combined 12-46 from the field. Due to the irregular outing from the backcourt duo, the Blazers were unable to build a lead when the Wizards struggled. A slightly better shooting night from Portland’s guards could have made the difference in a tightly contested game like this.
That being said, the Blazers’ supporting cast continued to look solid. Nik Stauskas tallied 15 points, and connected on a clutch three-point shot in the fourth quarter. Along with Stauskas, Al-Farouq Aminu recorded 16 points and 15 rebounds.
By the numbers
It was a rough night on defense for long stretches for Nurkic, but he still managed to get a double-double. The big fella had 18 rebounds, and half of his boards came on the offensive end.
Turner was three rebounds shy of a double-double of his own. Partly due to the lack of cohesion on offense, Turner ended up relying on his own shot. He finished with 10 points on 10 attempts from the field.
The Blazers will play their first road game of the year when they face the Magic on Thursday.
—Steve / @SteveDHoops / BEdgeSteve@gmail.com