Team Records: Washington (35-32) at Portland (44-24)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 620 AM.
Vegas Line: Portland -4.5
Refs: Ken Mauer, Kevin Cutler, Scott Wall
The Skinny: The Blazers look to send themselves off on their final long road trip of the year with a win over the Wizards at home Thursday. The Wizards have lost three of their last five and are coming off a very disappointing loss to the Kings two days ago. Washington needs a win to attempt to move up in the east standings and avoid near certain playoff doom against the Bulls.
Last Time They Met: The Wizards outscored the Blazers 26-14 in the 3rd to take a 13 point lead after three and while Portland attempted to come back their attempts were ultimately futile as the Wizards prevailed. John Wall lead the Wizards with 22 points as they moved above .500 for the first time in 355 games.
Projected Wizards Lineup:
PF: Trevor Booker (Clemson, 4th season) – 6.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, .8 APG
SF: Trevor Ariza (UCLA, 10th Season) – 14.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.6 APG
C: Marcin Gortat (Poland, 7th season) – 12.8 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 1.7 APG
SG: Bradley Beal (Florida, 2nd Season) – 17.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.4 APG
PG: John Wall (Kentucky, 4th season) – 19.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 8.7 APG
Player to Watch: Bradley Beal (pictured at right) – When he entered the NBA only one thing about Beal seemed certain, he could shoot the ball and shoot it well. Although Beal struggled at times his rookie year to find his shooting touch, he has clearly adjusted since about the middle of last season and has become a deadly outside shooter. Beal shoots a sizzling 41.2% from deep, and is actually slightly better from 3 than he is from 2. Beal is not the greatest passer in the world but with John Wall on his team he doesn’t have to be. Beal is the perfect compliment to Wall’s play and will be tough for Portland to stop Thursday.
Did You Know?: Portland suffered its 3rd worst loss in team history to the then-Baltimore Bullets on 11/24/70 as they fell by 52 points, losing 156-104.
Song of the Day: “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds. Made famous by the classic movie “The Breakfast Club” this song could rightly refer to Portland’s attempts to forget the lessons they learned in their escape over the Bucks Tuesday. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-PF/C Joel Freeland (Knee), Doubtful-PF LaMarcus Aldridge (Back)
Washington: Out – PF Nene (Knee)
Re-Evaluating the Wizards: A Good Start
The Wizards were expected to make a big jump this season from lottery regular to the playoffs. They have done so. Wall and Beal are as deadly a duo as they hoped and they appear to have a decent core to build around. While the path to actually contending for a title is still long and fraught with peril, this isn’t a bad place to be for a franchise that was horrible and in salary cap hell just a few years ago. After five straight season missing the playoffs, at least making the playoffs this year is a significant step even if they get blasted in the first round. The future is bright for the Wizards and they have made a good start climbing the NBA ladder.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They make more 3s than Washington. Both Portland and Washington want to make teams pay with the 3. If Portland can outshoot the Wizards from beyond the arc Thursday, they should win.
Washington wins if: Hold Portland under 90 points. A difficult ask but if the Blazers are sloppy as they have been at times as of late, Washington should be able to win this.