Led by two All Star point guards, the Wizards and Blazers walked away from All Star weekend and into the second half of the NBA season ready to go.
However, the two teams took different paths.
Since the first game back from the break for Washington, the team has gone 5-7. Portland has gone 8-3.
Washington's John Wall and Portland's Damian Lillard are two of the league's most exciting players, leading two teams only recently blessed with postseason appearances and looking to make sure this season ends hot.
When and where? Catch it live on CSN Washington at 7 p.m. (EST) or join the #radioparty on 99.1 FM.
Who's out? Garrett Temple is day to day, Kris Humphries remains out for the Wizards. Wesley Matthews is out for the Blazers, while Joel Freeland and Alonzo Gee are day to day.
Blazin' Blazers? Winners of eight of their last nine, they are now third place in the tough Western Conference. At 44-20, they're 20-6 against the Eastern Conference. They do just about everything a team needs to do to be considered elite in the NBA: 102.9 points per game (8th), 46 rebounds per game (2nd), 22.2 assists per game (9th) and 97.5 points allowed per game (9th). Even without Matthews, they've continued to dominate - a key part of their success coming from better play of Nicolas Batum, who is shooting 51 percent from the floor his last 10 games, averaging 12.7 ppg, 6.9 rebounds per game and 5.9 assists per game.
Willful Wizards? You've heard this song and dance before: The Wizards were good, then they were awful, now they're doing a lot better. Sure, the problems that existed for the Wizards during their sad January and February slump are still there, but they've certainly turned things around. Two weeks ago, they were struggling to hold the Milwaukee Bucks off from taking their fifth place spot in the Eastern Conference ... Now, they are just one game behind the Toronto Raptors for the third seed. As assumed, a lot of that has to do with Wall getting the pep back in his step - but the Wizards' bench play has been good as well.
Point Gawds? You know I love focusing on the point guard play, so of course I have to bring up John Wall vs. Damian Lillard. Both represented by Adidas, their style of play is different - yet yields the same results. In the first game of the season between the two, Wall (25 points on 10/17 shooting and 9 assists) out-played Lillard (20 points on 5/13 shooting and 7 assists) - but Portland took the W after a second half comeback. Wall assists and creates plays a bit more than Lillard, who scores and rebounds better than Wall. Seeing the two close friends match up tonight in the last game between the two teams will be one of this season's best.
Upcoming? With under 20 games left to go in the regular season, Washington is on its way to the West Coast after tonight's game - Utah, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Golden State are the opponents for the next week. Time to get working, fellas.
Home vs. Away? Washington is 24-10 at home. Portland is 16-14 on the road. Advantage... Wizards? We'll see.