The much anticipated matchup between the Washington Wizards and Portland Trailblazers backcourts took a bit of a hit ahead of their first matchup for the season. Washington’s John Wall underwent an MRI exam yesterday after experiencing left knee discomfort and inflammation due to knee-to-knee contact in the team’s game on Nov. 7 vs. Dallas. He is expected to miss approximately two weeks according to the Wizards PR department. That left Bradley Beal and Tim Frazier to deal with the dynamic duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Washington would lose a 17 point lead in the fourth quarter, Portland used a 10-0 run late in the fourth to top Washington 108-105. McCollum got hot late and finished with 26 points, Lillard scored 29 in the win. Beal scored 26 points and Porter had a big second half, finishing with 24 points.
The Blazers got off to a quick start, scoring on each of their first four possessions. Washington offered little to no resistance defensively for the first four minutes or so of the period. Portland led 11-4 at one point, before the Wizards rallied. Bradley Beal scored 12 points in the quarter, but what was more shocking was how aggressive Frazier was, scoring 7 of his 11 points in the period as well. Washington extended the lead to 8 at one point, but the Blazers would close the quarter strong as Damian Lillard scored his first basket of the game, a triple to cut the deficit to three.
Washington continued their run in the second quarter, it looked as if they’d blow things wide open after an and-1 by Kelly Oubre. Shortly before that, Blazers guard C.J. McCollum picked up his third foul. Washington had an 8 point lead at that time, but they couldn’t extend the lead. Lillard who had three points after the first quarter, would get going and spark an 8-0 run for Portland. They would hold Washington nearly four and a half minutes without a field goal, a basket from Nurkic would cut the once 10 point deficit to just two. The Wizards would respond by getting stops, then executing in the half court. There was an obvious size mismatch at the 3 (Small Forward) between Otto Porter Jr (6’8) and Pat Connaughton (6’5). Washington would lead 52-41 at the half.
To no one’s surprise, Wizards forward Kelly Oubre (13 points) made a few contributions in the half. Bringing that energy on the defensive end and making plays offensively, his arsenal is growing offensively and Washington is benefiting from it. He only scored 5 points in the period, but his impact was felt on several different levels. Helping Washington ease the absence of Wall in the half. Tomas Satoransky, who got minutes with Wall’s absence didn’t do bad either. He scored four points and ran the team well when he was the primary ball handler, in other cases he did a good job creating for others when on the wing. Beal led the way at the half with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting, his backcourt mate for the night Tim Frazier had 7 points and 2 steals.
Lillard hasn’t been known to have great shooting performances in this building, regardless of the name out front. He had 11 points and 3 assists at the break. Portland came into this game ranked fourth in the league in three point percentage as a team at 38.4%. They shot just 20% (3-of-15) in the first half, Jusuf Nurkic also had a good half with 10 points and four rebounds.
While Portland struggled with the long ball in the first half, that wouldn’t be the case in the third period. The Blazers hit six triples, helping them cut a once 15 point Wizards lead to two in just minutes. Washington, much like the first half would respond to keep their lead in tact. Beal continued where he left off, Frazier brought the crowd to their feet with a fast break dunk, including John Wall. That wasn’t the biggest part of the period though, it was Otto Porter joining the fray. For a three minute stretch it felt like a shoot out between Beal and Porter against Lillard and McCollum. When Beal sat down for a rest, Porter remained aggressive and kept putting the ball in the basket. He scored 13 points in the period, playing a big role in the 10 point lead Washington held heading into the fourth period.
The Wizards and Blazers spent the first half of the fourth quarter trading baskets, Otto picked up where he left off in the third period and things were looking good for the home team. A couple silly fouls early in the period would have Washington in the penalty with 6 minutes left in the game. Portland cut the deficit to nine after a floater from McCollum, Scott Brooks would call a timeout immediately afterwards. Washington would lead 96-87 with 5:36 to go, out of the timeout Beal scored on a midrange jumper. He would follow that up with a triple a couple possessions later, Portland kept finding success in the pick-and-roll game.
Lillard joins in on McCollum’s floater challenge, hitting one over Gortat after converting an and-1 opportunity on the previous possession. Washington held a 101-97 lead with 3:07 on the clock. Washington would respond with a tough shot from Keef over the outstretched arms of Vonleh. Washington would get a stop courtesy of a Frazier Block on Lillard after committing a foul the previous defensive possession. The Wizards found success late in the half court by getting the ball to Morris and Beal, that resulted in a 7 point lead with 1:57 left on the clock.
For all the good that Markieff Morris did late in the game, he had a sequence that he probably regrets by now. With 1:32 on the clock, following a Wizards miss he would commit a flagrant foul on Nurkic. The Blazers big would split the pair, but they kept possession because of the flagrant. On the inbound play, McCollum somehow got wide open and drilled a triple. Portland than got a stop and CJ scored again to cut the eficit to one. He wasn’t done either, on the next possession after Portland got a stop, McCollum hit a long two via a stepback to give his team a one point lead.
Washington inbounded the ball, Morris got fouled and they would have to inbound it again. The second inbound would result in a Beal jumper from the foul line, he pump faked to let the defender go by, but missed the shot. Connaughton got the rebound and was immediately fouled, he would knock down both free throws to give Portland a three point lead. Wizards ball with 2.6 seconds left with Portland up 108-105, Beal would get the ball with two defenders on him, due to the clock ticking he had to fire the shot. There appeared to be some contact, but not enough to lead to a foul. Washington would drop their first matchup to the Blazers after having two 15 point leads.
Once again discipline and defense doomed Washington, they head out on the road and return home on Friday, December 1st.