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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Washington Wizards Preview

The Blazers look to keep the win streak going.

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (18-10) vs Washington Wizards (9-17)

The Portland Trail Blazers face the Washington Wizards at the Moda Center for their first game back after a three game road trip. The Blazers are red hot, currently on a six game winning streak with wins in nine of their last ten games. The Wizards have struggled to start this season, but have begun to bounce back, having won three straight games coming into this game.

Saturday, February 20- 7:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, League Pass, or see games all season on fuboTV, follow on ESPN+, or the ESPN/Disney Bundle*
Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), CJ McCollum (out), Harry Giles (out) Wizards injuries: Thomas Bryant (out), Ish Smith (out)
SBN Affiliate: Bullets Forever

*Blazer’s Edge receives a commission when you subscribe through these links.

What To Watch For

  • Wing Defense. The Wizards boast star level guards in Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal, and their defensive game plan on most nights is to score more than their opponent. Gary Trent Jr., Derrick Jones Jr., and Robert Covington will play essential roles in attempting to stop the onslaught of scorers the Wizards have on the wings. Bradley Beal has been the league’s leading scorer so far, averaging 33 points per game, but the Wizards are only 2-6 in games that he scores below 30. If the Blazers can contain the one man scoring army of Bradley Beal, their chances of winning go up greatly.
  • Gary Trent Jr. Trent has averaged 18.1 points per game in the absence of CJ McCollum so far this year, while shooting 45% from three on 8.5 attempts. Trent has stepped up and shown that he is capable of being a starting level player in the NBA for years to come, and his emergence has come at the right time for the Blazers, as he has helped fill the scoring gap left by McCollum. He has scored at least 15 points in the last nine games, including four 20 point or more games during that stretch.
  • Damian Lillard. It seems a bit clichéd at this point to say that Damian Lillard is integral to the Blazers’ success, but he is the driving force of this team. He is currently averaging 29.8 points per game to along with 7.7 assists, but those number have jumped up to 31.9 points and 8.6 assists per game in McCollum’s absence. Lillard is a transcendent scorer and basketball talent, and his level of play is only elevated when he is given a chip on his shoulder, and the latest chip has been delivered in the form of a snub for all-star starter. This snub might prove to be all Lillard needs to go on a rampage following this announcement, attempting, once again, to prove the doubters wrong when it comes to his game.

What Others Are Saying

Mike DePrisco of NBC Sports Washington talked about the boost the Wizards have been given by their new starting lineup recently.

A huge reason for the Wizards’ latest turnaround came from a drastic lineup change Brooks made last week, inserting Moe Wagner and Garrison Mathews in the starting lineup alongside Bradley Beal, Russell Westbrook and Rui Hachimura.

The Wizards needed a jolt of energy in the starting lineup and those two additions provided it in spades. This lineup is scoring a nice 115.7 points per 100 possessions, but it’s defending at an insane level right now (83.3 defensive rating). Wagner’s versatility on the defensive end is having a positive impact on the overall stinginess of the Wizards’ front line, and it also helps that he’s developed into a pretty good flopper.

NBC Sports Washington writer Chase Hughes writes about the impact Russell Westbrook had on willing his team to a victory over the Denver Nuggets a couple nights ago.

Going into this season, before Russell Westbrook had ever played a game for the Wizards, head coach Scott Brooks and others raved about his leadership and the tone he sets for his teammates. They believed he would make a winning impact on the Wizards with his intangibles as much as his rebounding, passing and scoring.

On Wednesday night, we saw that come to life at the end of the first quarter. Westbrook ripped into his teammates about their effort in key areas the Denver Nuggets were beating them en route to an early 20-point lead.

The Wizards caught momentum soon after that and rode it to a 46-23 second quarter. They would end up winning the game, their third straight, despite a see-saw ending.

Kevin Broom of Bullets Forever comments on Scott Brooks and whether or not he is the right coach for this Wizards team.

I know a lot of fans would prefer Brooks be sent to the glue factory rather than the pasture. In no way am I going to argue Brooks has done a good job — he hasn’t. At the same time, I don’t think he’s cost the team as much many fans think. They run standard NBA sets (lots of horns and modified horns) and they have some good counters, fake actions, and after timeout plays. There are some original and creative ideas, but nothing out of line with NBA coaching norms.

His lineups and playing time decisions have left plenty to be desired. Rather than picking a rotation and sticking with it for a few games, he’s been guessing night to night which players might be effective. And he’s assembled them into lineup groupings that don’t seem designed to maximize anyone’s effectiveness. On the other hand, the roster is stocked with a bunch of guys whose performance level is in the “about the same” category. It’s a challenge to decide who plays when there isn’t much to differentiate them.