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Wizards vs. Blazers preview: Washington seeks win against surging Portland squad

After Friday night’s overtime win against the Kings, the Wizards hope to keep it up against the Trail Blazers.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Wizards defeated the Kings on Friday night, 130-122 in overtime. Tonight, they hope to get to their fifth win in a row — and third straight — on their west coast road trip as they face the Portland Trail Blazers later tonight (since it’s Saturday morning in the East Coast).

Game Info

When: Saturday, March 11 at 10:00 pm EST
Where: Moda Center in Portland, Oregon
TV: CSN Mid-Atlantic
Radio: 1500 AM and Wizards Radio App

Injury Report

Wizards: None

Blazers: Ed Davis (Out, Shoulder), Festus Ezeli (Out, Knee), Evan Turner (Out, Hand)

Eastern Conference Standings Picture

Place Team W L GB L10
Place Team W L GB L10
1 Cavaliers 42 21 0 (5-5)
2 Wizards 40 24 2,5 (7-3)
3 Celtics 41 24 2,5 (5-5)
4 Raptors 38 27 5 (6-4)
Records accurate after games on March 10, 2017

Before we get to some talking points on Saturday’s game, we have some good news to report on Friday’s game. The Cavaliers didn’t play on Friday, but the Celtics lost 119-99 to the Nuggets and the Raptors lost 105-99 to the Hawks. This bumps the Wizards to second in the Eastern Conference, just 2.5 games behind the Cavaliers, and a 2.5 game cushion ahead of the Raptors.

Though the Wizards and Celtics are virtually tied, Washington currently holds the tiebreaker against the Celtics since they have a 2-1 regular season record. They can clinch the tiebreaker if they beat the Celtics again on March 20.

What to watch for

How will Washington handle their biggest challenge on this road trip?

Going into this road trip, most people would have said Denver would be the most challenging game of the Wizards’ road trip, but it was before we knew Nikola Jokic and Danilo Gallinari would both miss that game. So now the Portland game is clearly the biggest challenge on this trip.

The Blazers are currently ninth in the Western Conference standings, but they’ve won four straight, including two over the Thunder to pull within striking distance of the Nuggets for that eighth spot. You can bet Portland will want to grab another statement win at home before they embark on a five-game road trip.

Furthermore, the Wizards defeated the Kings in overtime last night. Washington isn’t just facing the toughest team on paper for this road trip. They may have to fight fatigue because it’s the second game of a back-to-back. Fortunately, it wasn’t like John Wall and Bradley Beal played 45 minutes each, but it’s still something to keep an eye on.

Can the Wizards slow down Portland’s efficient outside shooting?

Since the All-Star break, the Blazers have been much more selective on their outside shots. They’re attempting 5.9 less threes per game than they were before the break in action. But cutting down on the attempts has led to a nice uptick in efficiency. They’re shooting 44.9 percent in the 7 games since the break, way up from the 36.0 percent they were shooting earlier this season.

The biggest changes have come from C.J. McCollum, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Allen Crabbe, who have all seen benefits from cutting back.

Remember when some people thought Evan Turner would have a better career than John Wall?


Most Likely Wizards Killer: Jusuf Nurkic

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Nurkic has been on a tear since the Blazers acquired him last month. He’s averaging 16.5 points, 9.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.9 blocks in eight games since joining Portland. His numbers are way up, and not just because he’s playing more minutes. When you look at his per 36 or per 100 possession numbers, the improvement is still evident. If he can get someone in early foul trouble, it could make things very difficult on the second night of a back-to-back.