Originally written January 21, 2013 on NorthWest Sports Beat:
PDX needs a win, now. The Portland Trail Blazers sure know how to make things interesting, don’t they? For the first time in franchise history, the team has lost five straight games by six points or less. Matchup: Portland (20-20) vs. Washington Wizards (8-30) Venue: Rose Garden Arena Time: 7:00 PM PT Date: Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 Portland needs a win as badly as anybody in the league, and they’ll look to get it against a Washington Wizards team that is finally finding success half way through the season. The Blazers are set to face the Wizards for the second time this season. (Photo: AP) Game Notes/How They Match Up This will be the second time the Trail Blazers have faced Washington this year, and the first time around was as unfortunate as it gets for fans in Rip City. The Wizards took down Portland 84-82 for its first win of the season after losing their first 12 games. Washington has been the worst team in the league all year, but they’re finally gaining some momentum. They’ve won four of their last six contests, and they’ve been close in the ones they lost. Portland, on the other hand, has lost all of the momentum they once had, and they’re now in the midst of their longest losing streak of the season. The Blazers are a much better team than the Wizards, but as we’ve learned over the last five games, momentum means more when you’re a young, inexperienced roster. What to Watch: Portland Until the Blazers can win a close game, this storyline is going to be exactly the same. The Blazers were once known for finishing close games in grand fashion. They were undefeated in their first five overtime games, they found clutch scoring from their top four scorers and they most recently came from behind to take down the defending champion Miami Heat. But then something changed, and this team began showing their youth. The problem isn’t so much that they can’t close out games; it’s that they can’t start them. Portland knows how to make a drastic comeback—we’ve seen it the last five games in a row. But when you begin a game falling behind by double-digits, every comeback proves to be too little, too late. If you believe in jinxes, blame ESPN’s Henry Abbott. He sat down with Terry Stotts and broke down how most teams who start off great in close games even out by the end of the year. If you don’t believe in jinxes, blame the Blazers bench. They began the season in ugly fashion, and then started to pick up speed, but have once again shown that a lack of depth—and a lack of talent—make it difficult to come from behind. For the sixth game in a row, Portland has to establish momentum early. Washington comes in with confidence, and if Portland gets off to a rough start, it could be the same tired story from start to finish. What to Watch: Washington Washington is dead last in scoring this season. They’re averaging an unimposing 90.8 points per game, and their leading scorer is John Wall, who has only played in five games all year. However, when this team wins, it’s because they’re able to put the ball in the basket. When you play the Wizards, you have to keep them around their points-per-game average. They only have eight wins on the season, but they managed to score about 10 points more per contest in each of those showings. This team has had the highest scoring bench throughout most of the season, but that’s much more a statement of how bad their starting lineup has been. With John Wall back in the lineup, the scoring role will shift back to the starting unit and away from the reserves. Rookie Bradley Beal is also playing much better basketball than he was to begin the year. John Wall missed the first matchup between these two teams. If you want to contain the Wizards, you have to lock down their scorers. They haven’t won much this season, but when they have, it’s because they’ve been able to score well above their season average. Key Matchup The first time these two teams met, we didn’t get to see the battle at the point guard position that we all wanted to see. Damian Lillard was there, scoring 20 points on 6-of-21 shooting, but John Wall was still out with an injury. This time, however, we’ll get to see the future of NBA points guards facing off in front of our eyes. Wall is the kind of player who will be an All-Star if he can keep his assists high and learn to make a jump shot. Damian Lillard is the kind of player who will be an All-Star if he can boost his assists without taking away from his lethal scoring ability. Both players have become primary scorers within their teams’ systems, and the cameras will be pointed their way as they face off for the first time this season. Injury Report Portland: DAY-TO-DAY—Nicolas Batum, Meyers Leonard Washington: DAY-TO-DAY—Jordan Crawford, Cartier Martin Prediction There’s still half a season to go for the Portland Trail Blazers, but if there’s any time to turn things around, it’s against the worst team in the NBA. Blazers 103 – Wizards 91 CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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