The Portland Trail Blazers didn’t have the luxury of a deep bench against the Washington Wizards, but in perfect irony, they earned a win through deep-range shooting. Utilizing Damian Lillard’s gravity, the Blazers flowed their way into 21 3-pointers on their way to a much-needed 132-121 victory.
The Blazers had to have known there was something in the air when Robert Covington, in the midst of arguably the lengthiest shooting slump of his career, opened a perfect 3-of-3 from deep in the opening minutes. That accuracy proved contagious across the rotation, particularly among the wings.
Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood matched aggressiveness with efficiency, combining for 15 points in the opening period alone. Even Carmelo Anthony rediscovered his touch, taking advantage of Davis Bertans to score eight quick points in that mid-post area.
Portland’s group effort took the scoring burden off of Damian Lillard, allowing him to focus on setting the table and even take on the assignment of guarding the NBA’s leading scorer in Bradley Beal for a few possessions. By quarter’s end, Portland had a 17-point lead to show for it.
Long after his playing career comes to a close, Gary Trent Jr. should have a hefty deck of clips to show to the next generation (hopefully future Blazers legend Gary Trent III). He opened the second quarter with an exciting mini-duel with future Hall-of-Famer Russell Westbrook, matching him point-for-point (8 each), in the opening minutes before the Carmelo Anthony Show began.
It was around this time that Trail Blazers fans likely remembered that the Wizards also had that Bradley Beal fella. He’s pretty good. On offense, he and Westbrook helped claw the Wizards back into the game, accounting for 22 of the Wizards’ 40 second quarter points.
League Pass watchers likely came in expecting a battle between Lillard and Beal, but it failed to live up to the hype in the first half. Washington mixed up defensive assignments on Lillard. But in what he lacked from the field, he more than made up for it at the charity stripe, guiding the Blazers to an 18-of-18 finish at the half.
If tasked with coming up with one word to define this game, “spacing” would have to be it. Even in having a sub-optimal shooting game (for his standards), Damian Lillard remained the most feared man on the floor.
In that third quarter, the Blazers opened up a ton of sets that could be strong reference points. They utilized double drag screens to free Lillard, simple two-man sets where he’s driving one way, drawing a defense in and passing the other, and even “Horns” sets that freed him off-ball.
The end result? 100 points. A free six-piece Chicken McNugget meal with some time to spare in that third quarter.
We’ve likely all internally said it before, but this has the potential to be a building-block game for the Blazers going forward. They weathered storm after storm, coming up with timely buckets to play keep away against a never-say-die Wizards team just two nights removed from scoring 136 points in 39 minutes. And since this was the second game of a back-to-back, taking care of business was key.
Portland’s win played out similar to a box-office movie. Almost everyone amongst the Blazers’ rotation had their “moment,” where they put an imprint on tonight’s game. Unfortunately for Washington, Damian Lillard played spoiler, taking over with the game in the balance. The Wizards certainly made it a game down the stretch, but Portland responded well to a mental challenge in tonight’s win.
Other Quick Thoughts:
- Their hot start allowed the Blazers to dictate the terms, but even if they don’t jump out to 17-point leads frequently, their hustle was key. They forced seven first-quarter turnovers, gobbled up 14 offensive rebounds, and came in poised, going 23-of-23 from the free throw line.
- Carmelo Anthony leapfrogged another NBA legend, surpassing Dominique Wilkins for the No. 13 spot on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Next stop: Oscar Robertson. Perhaps even more importantly than the points he scored tonight, Anthony got creative in how he got them. He made cuts, sniffed out mismatches, and mixed up catch-and-shoot opportunities with his trusty post fadeaways.
- It was inspiring to see Portland’s supporting cast win those 4-on-3s, when the Wizards would blitz Lillard. To his credit, Lillard lengthened his dribbles to provide his teammates more space to work. But time after time, the likes of Covington, Trent Jr., and Hood made the right passes to set their teammates up in those deep corners.
The Blazers will take on Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday at 5:00, Pacific.