WIZARDS-TRAIL BLAZERS PREVIEW
By: Jeremy Hyman
The Wizards west coast trip makes a stop in Portland tonight as they take on the Trail Blazers at Rose Garden (10:00 pm | TV: CSN | Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM). The Wizards are currently 1-2 on this west coast swing.
Back on November 28th at Verizon Center, the Wizards picked up their first win of the season against these Blazers, taking them down 84-82. The Wizards snapped a 12 game losing streak at that time and tonight it will be the Blazers who try and snap a losing streak of their own to get revenge on the Wizards.
The Blazers had been playing much better basketball before their current five game losing streak including home losses to Milwaukee and Cleveland. They come into tonight's game with a .500 record (20-20), and have seen many ups and down through the first half of the season.
Statistically, the Blazers are unlike many of their counterparts in that their starting five does most of the damage. The last two teams the Wizards have faced, the Nuggets and Clippers, have relied on depth and great bench play, but tonight it will be all about shutting down the Blazers starting unit. LaMarcus Aldridge is having another outstanding year, averaging over 20 points and close to nine rebounds a night and will be the #1 threat for the Blazers tonight. Another key to watch will be the rookie sensation Damian Lillard who is having a remarkable rookie year. He's averaging over 18 points and 6.6 assists a night and is a leading candidate for rookie of the year.
Although the Wizards have now dropped two of their last three on this trip, there is no doubt they are playing their best basketball of the season and with John Wall back in the lineup they feel like they can beat anyone. After they beat the Nuggets in Denver on Friday night, they took the Clippers down to the wire on Saturday night and should give the Blazers a battle tonight. Wall and Bradley Beal are starting to form a chemistry on the court and and should be keys to the Wizards offensive attack tonight.
The Wizards beat the Blazers 124-109 last year in Portland and tonight they will look to put up a similar performance and even their record on this west coast trip.
The action kicks off at 10:00pm.
Normally we match up two players playing the same position, but in this key matchup we focus on the two winners of December's Rookie of the Month award in Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard.
One could argue that these are the top two rookies in the NBA this year and tonight we will get to see them square off against one another. Bradley Beal seems to be gaining confidence with each day and has really started to heat up.
Beal is averaging 19.5 points, 3.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds in his last six games, while shooting .519 from the field (42-81) and .667 from three-point range (20-30). In the month of January, Beal leads all rookies in scoring (18.6 ppg), three point field goal percentage (.604) and three-pointers made (29).
Lillard scored 20 points to lead the Blazers in the two teams first meeting and he will be key in setting up the Blazers offense tonight. He can shoot it from long range and can get to the hole, so the Wizards will need to continue their strong perimeter defense and shut Lillard down.
Whichever team gets more production from their rookie will likely be the team that is in position to win the game.
In the below clip, Beal talks to the media after Saturday night's game in Los Angeles.
In this clip, Beal accepts his Rookie of the Month award.