Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combined for 65 points on Sunday evening as the Blazers dropped the Wizards 119-109 in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score would indicate. John Wall led the Wizards with 24 points but don’t let the stat sheet fool you, he didn’t get help from anyone else nor was he all that great himself.
The opening period looked like a warm-up drill for the Blazers. Portland connected on 7 of their first 10 field goals to start this one and took a 19-8 lead before Washington could take off their tear-aways. But it didn’t stop there. Portland continued their onslaught knocking down 7 of their first 9 three-point attempts, capped off by a Jake Layman 3-pointer right in front of the Washington bench to take a 32-12 lead midway through the first quarter, which drew boos from the Capital One Arena crowd.
But in what turned out to be a quarter of big runs, the Wizards countered with a 13-0 run of their own to trim it to 32-25 at the end of the quarter.
The Wizards were forced to go small in the second quarter as Dwight Howard picked up his third foul at the 5:32 mark. And whatever effort defensively and team rebounding the team showed for spurts in the first quarter, that was gone as the Blazers did whatever they wanted using a 23-7 run to blow the game open once again and take a 62-41 at halftime.
After trailing by as many as 29, Washington was able to trim the deficit down to eight 115-107, late in the game with the bench unit leading the comeback toward respectability. Again, don’t let the final score fool you, this one wasn’t close. Washington is now 5-11 on the season and whatever optimism was generated during their three-game win streak is long gone.
A roller coaster of a first quarter
Washington came out with the ‘we’ll play hard defense when we want to’ mindset to start this game. As a result, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum had driving lanes as wide as the National Mall for some easy layups. While the Wizards were playing this lackadaisical defense, Portland had the ball on a string zipping it around the perimeter for wide-open three-point attempts.
The Wizards finally decided to play defense after they fell behind by 20 in the opening quarter. With Dwight Howard sidelined with foul trouble, Washington was forced to play small but overcame their lack of size on the glass as they made a concerted effort to send all five guys to the defensive glass. Additionally, guys like Wall and Green stepped it up a notch defensively, which allowed the Wizards to claw back in this one early on.
But just like other nights, putting together a strong defensive effort in spurts isn’t going to get it done on most nights and definitely not against the second best team in the Western Conference.
John Wall didn’t get any help tonight
John Wall didn’t have a terrific game himself, but the rest of his teammates did him no favors. Otto Porter and Markieff Morris were no-shows for most of the evening while Dwight Howard was sidelined with foul trouble before leaving the game at halftime with gluteal soreness, the same injury that kept him out for the beginning of the season.
Jeff Green provided energy in the first half but was unable to knock down his shots and Kelly Oubre scored 19, but it was way after the game was out of hand.
John Wall and Bradley Beal were the only Wizards players that connected on 3-pointers before this game got into garbage time.
It’s long overdue to shake up the starting lineup
People have been screaming for Scott Brooks to shake up the starting unit and with the injury to Dwight Howard, he probably won’t have a choice. Markieff Morris is regressing at a rapid pace as more often than not he looks stuck in the mud and can’t even make the simplest defensive plays. Would Jeff Green be the panacea? No, but he’s more active than Morris and actually looks like he wants to be playing out there.
We don’t know how serious Dwight Howard’s injury is but if he is going to miss time, why not start Thomas Bryant as we know how the Ian Mahinmi experiment as a starting center went.
The Wizards need a jolt from somewhere as a trade isn’t likely to be done prior to December 15th, the date at which players signed over the summer can be dealt. So why not switch something up to at least try and provide a spark? Washington’s schedule is about to get a whole lot tougher, so if they can’t find a boost somewhere things are likely going to get a lot uglier before they get better.
Next up: The Wizards return to action on Tuesday as they host the Los Angeles Clippers at 7 pm Eastern Time.