Preview: Wizards look to stay hot, open four-game road trip Saturday in Portland
On Saturday, the Wizards open a four-game West Coast road trip when they take on the Trail Blazers at 10:00 P.M. in Portland. Washington is coming off a win over Denver and has won three straight games, while Portland is riding a six-game winning streak.
Moda Center | 10:00 P.M. | NBCSW | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Russell Westbrook, G – Bradley Beal, F – Garrison Mathews, F – Rui Hachimura, C – Moe Wagner
Trail Blazers: G – Damian Lillard, G – Gary Trent Jr., F – Derrick Jones Jr., F – Robert Covington, C – Enes Kanter
Wizards: Thomas Bryant (left ACL injury – out), Ish Smith (right quadriceps strain – out)
Trail Blazers: Zach Collins (left ankle stress fracture – out), Harry Giles III (left calf strain – out), CJ McCollum (left midfoot fracture – out), Jusuf Nurkic (right wrist fracture – out)
Bertans’ improved play drives Wizards’ win streak
The Wizards’ recent win streak has coincided directly with the resurgence of Davis Bertans, who struggled to find the same touch from 3-point range that was such an impactful part of the Washington offense in 2019-20. But in the last three games, Bertans has more than found his way from deep. He is coming off the best shooting night of his career , going 9-11 (.818) from deep on his way to a career-high 35 points. According to Basketball Reference, Bertans became the first player in league history to score 30-plus points without attempting a two-point field goal. That 3-point proficiency is just what the offense needed, creating space for star guards Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook to operate inside the arc. One game earlier, he knocked down a then season-high five threes against the Rockets. Sunday against the Celtics, he hit just two 3-pointers, but grabbed a season-high eight rebounds and finished plus-17 in 24 minutes. Bertans’ ability to take the Wizards to another level will be crucial as they face a tough stretch of upcoming opponents capable of lighting up the scoreboard.
Wizards embark on first West Coast trip this season
Saturday’s game against the Trail Blazers marks the start of the Wizards’ first extended West Coast road trip of the season. In late January, Washington hit the road for a three-game trip with games against the Spurs, Rockets and Pelicans, but it lasted just four days. This time, the Wizards face a four-game stretch over six days with three games tipping at 10:00 P.M. ET. Even under normal circumstances, these West Coast trips are circled on the calendar as some of the biggest challenges of the season, but this season, the degree of difficulty is heightened.
“It’s totally different,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said. “This year is like no other. All the testing the players (and coaches) have to do. Sleep – you just try to get it as much as you can. If you get in late, you still have to get up early. Some players are testing twice a day, so those early morning (flights) when you get in the next night to the next city at 3:00 A.M., you still have to have your test by 8:30 A.M. So, no matter what, you can’t really prepare. We’ve met with sleep experts, but your rhythm is off. In a normal West Coast trip in a normal NBA season, but this season is like no other…we try to make the best of what we have and not make excuses along the way.”
Lillard, Blazers on a hot streak
There are four teams in the NBA currently on winning streaks of three games or more: the Jazz (9), Nets (5), Wizards (3) and the Trail Blazers, who come into Saturday’s matchup against Washington having won six games in a row and eight of their last nine. That run started with a 132-121 win over the Wizards on February 1 and includes victories over the Mavericks, Pelicans and the Sixers (twice). Unsurprisingly, the Portland’s recent success has been driven by outstanding play from their superstar point guard, Damian Lillard, who has gone three games in a row with at least 30 points and 10 assists. In his last outing, a two-point win over New Orleans, Lillard totaled 43 points, one shy of his season high, and tied his career high with 16 assists. The ninth-year pro may take the court with some added motivation on Saturday, two days after the NBA announced that Lillard was not named a starter in the upcoming All-Star Game, despite averaging 29.8 points and 7.7 assists this season.