Blazers bounce back with comfortable win over Wizards
The Blazers quickly put their 25-point embarrassment of a loss to Philadelphia behind them in Monday’s game against the Wizards. The Blazers had a few bumps but ultimately coasted to victory 108-98 to finish their three-game Eastern Conference road trip.
The Wizards are getting closer to full strength but after probably their worst defensive performance of the season, the Blazers showed a different level of execution and attention to detail on the defensive end which propelled them to a win Monday.
The Wizards primary means of success is the pick and roll with John Wall and the Blazers did an excellent job of slowing down that aspect of Washington’s attack. Wall dished a handful of assists but the Blazers held him without a basket for the first quarter and kept him from getting to the rim where he is a good finisher and he is able to kick the ball out to corner 3-point shooters. Wall finished with nine points on 4-of-17 shooting and 10 assists.
Offensively they were also better with Lillard and McCollum shaking off their poor games on Saturday very early. McCollum scored eight of his 25 points in the 1st quarter and Lillard was aggressive, if not efficient, with six points. Allen Crabbe, the other guard with a scoring punch on the Blazers, would not be left alone in the scoring party.
Crabbe finished with 14 and Lillard with 16 points and six assists. Mason Plumlee came three assists shy of a triple-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.
The Blazers bench got into it in the second quarter, taking advantage of the Wizards bench. The Blazers led by as much as 14 points with Meyers Leonard catching fire from the outside. Portland’s bench had it going, but Leonard has having a field day against Washington’s shaky defense with 10 points in the first half. Gerald Henderson also pitched in with seven points off the bench.
But the Blazers defense, which was so strong in the first 12 minutes, were put on skates by the Wizards in the second quarter.
Wall got going in transition and Wizards were just beating Blazers players down the court. On the final Wizards possession of the half, Damian Lillard made a crucial mistake that led to an open Bradley Beal 3-pointer. While his job is normally to crash down on the roll man, which is what he did, but knowing personnel and Beal’s reputation as a shooter, he probably should have been a little closer as to not allow a wide open look. Gortat had been hurting the Blazers, but 3 is greater than 2.
The end result was that a game the Blazers dominated became a nip-tuck affair and a half where they shot 50 percent from the field and from the 3-point line was barely a net positive.
Portland’s answer to start the third quarter put the game in their favor for good. Their starters picked up where they left off at the start of the game by blowing by the Wizards starting unit. After the Wizards briefly took a one point lead in the 3rd quarter, the Blazers took over the game and took a 10-point lead after an Al-Farouq Aminu 3-pointer in transition. The Blazers kept the ball rolling from there and the Wizards very quickly looked discouraged.
The Blazers appeared unaffected by Washington’s run. Look how Noah Vonleh started the 3rd quarter.
The Wizards season has been one of unmet expectations and Monday night continued in that theme. The Wizards second unit was in shambles defensively and their match-up choice by always sticking a center on Meyers Leonard, was clearly the wrong way to play the big man who had one of his better games this season. Leonard had 18 points and was a match-up problem for the Wizards all night as they never found an answer to slowing him down. If they switched smaller players on him, he did a good job of using his size to his advantage and Ed Davis found him several times for buckets.
It helps when McCollum, Lillard and Crabbe have it going in the way that they all did. When those three guys can score, it opens up so many things for the Blazers as a collective. Tonight, it was Leonard who stepped up but also Plumlee, who had a near triple-double and was effective as a creator in 3-on-2 situations after the Wizards trapped Portland’s ball-handlers in pick and rolls.
The Blazers end their road trip 2-1 and have won four out of five games.
- The Wizards played the frontcourt of Marcin Gortat and Nene for the first time this season against the Blazers. This experimentation ended up playing into Portland’s favor with their variety of big man combinations and the difficulty the Wizards had handling all of them. It was a pretty solid win for the Blazers and all of their big men.
- CJ McCollum answered a stretch of poor shooting games with 25 points on a very efficient nine-of-16 from the field. With the Wizards trying to force the ball out of Lillard’s hands early, McCollum took advantage of the opportunities he had which got the Blazers on their way to an excellent start. McCollum and Lillard significantly outplayed Wall and Beal.
- Vonleh had nine rebounds in addition to his vine contribution in today’s game.
- The Blazers place in the Western Conference will be affected by the result of Monday afternoon’s game between the Jazz and Hornets which just went to overtime. If the Jazz win, the Blazers are 1 1/2 games back of the 8th seed in the West and a Utah loss will bring the Blazers to within a half game. Update: the Hornets won 124-119 in double overtime thanks to 52 points from Kemba Walker so the Blazers are only 0.5 games out of the 8th spot after Monday.
- Damian Lillard has surpassed 2,000 career field goals in his career after Monday’s game. The music video to his single “Bigger Than Us” is set to debut tonight during the TNT’s coverage of tonight’s NBA games. He talked about the video, being racially profiled by the police, LaMarcus Aldridge and more on USA Today’s A to Z NBA podcast [soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/242513389″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]
- Lillard nor Mason Plumlee were named in the final list of 30 players vying for a spot on Team USA for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Lillard’s name was not expected after he sat out of the team’s mini-camp last summer and Plumlee was probably the more surprising omission after being on the team who won the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2014. According to Joe Freeman of The Oregonian, Lillard says he may be interested in USA Basketball opportunities down the line but has no interest now.
- Also, if you haven’t checked it out yet, read this feature in Monday’s Columbian. on a group of Blazers who’ve developed an interesting breakfast ritual which helps them learn about each other and come closer together.