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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Washington Wizards Preview

Portland looks to make it two in a row as they welcome Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards to the Moda Center.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Utah Jazz Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (27-35) vs. Washington Wizards (22-38)

Wednesday, March 4 - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Rodney Hood (out), Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Damian Lillard (probable)
Wizards injuries: John Wall (out), Thomas Bryant (out), Ish Smith (doubtful)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Bullets Forever

The Trail Blazers return home to face the Washington Wizards after a three-game Eastern Conference road trip. They finished the trip 1-2 after winning 130-107 in Orlando on Monday. Every game matters as Portland tries to stay in the race for the 8-seed. They trail Memphis (30-31) by 3.5 games, but are also in contention with New Orleans (26-35), Sacramento (27-34), and San Antonio (26-34).

Washington will be concluding a four-game Western Conference trip. They are playing the second of a back-to-back after losing 133-126 in Sacramento Tuesday night. Bradley Beal led the way for the Wizards with 35 points and 8 assists. Former Gonzaga Bulldog Rui Hachimura chipped in 20 points. Neither played when Portland beat the Wizards 122-103 in Washington back in January.

What to watch for

  • Will Lillard play? On Monday it was reported that Damian Lillard was targeting Wednesday’s game to return from his strained groin. The Blazers need their All-NBA point guard back. CJ McCollum has filled in nicely as the top scorer, but Portland is only 2-5 in the games without Lillard. With the playoff race getting tighter, the Blazers need a healthy Lillard.
  • Slowing down Beal. Bradley Beal is on a scoring streak similar to Lillard’s stretch a month ago. He is averaging 36.9 points per game over his last 15 games while hitting over 40 percent of his 9.3 three-point attempts and getting to the free throw line more than 10 times per game. He had back-to-back 50-point games and scored 40 or more six times in that stretch.
  • Bench scoring. Portland and Washington are both led by prolific scoring guards, but the teams are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to bench scoring. The Wizards are second in the NBA with 50.3 points per game off the bench while the Blazers are dead last with only 26.6 bench points. Washington’s bench is led by Davis Bertans, the team’s second best scorer, but they have several players—Thomas Bryant, Troy Brown Jr., and Ish Smith to name a few—capable of putting up double figures.

What they’re saying

Candace Buckner of The Washington Post wrote about Bradley Beal exceeding expectations:

While the Wizards (22-37) have lived up to preseason presumptions of mediocrity, Beal has surpassed expectations. In doing so, he has passed some of the more accomplished names in franchise history. On Feb. 23, Beal leapfrogged Jeff Malone for second on the Wizards’ all-time scoring list. The next night, he moved past Gus Johnson and Phil Chenier to take over fourth in field goals made.

Albert Lee of Bullets Forever reported on rookie Rui Hachimura’s recent visit to Gonzaga:

Hachimura was able to make the surprise appearance because the Wizards weren’t playing last Saturday where they were in transit between Salt Lake City, Utah when they played the Jazz last Friday and San Francisco, Calif. when they played the Warriors [Sunday]. Scheduling and flights would have been a little tight, but it’s awesome to see Hachimura get it done.