Wizards-Trail Blazers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 20, 2013
Even without John Wall earlier this season, the Washington Wizards found a way to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers and end their franchise-worst start. Now that Wall's back, the league-worst Wizards are looking to extend the Blazers' season-high losing streak to six when these teams meet on Monday night in Portland. Losers of 12 straight to open the season, Washington (8-30) finally got into the win column with an 84-82 victory over Portland on Nov. 28. The Blazers (20-20) will now get their first look at Wall this season after the point guard missed the first 33 games due to a stress injury to his left kneecap. The Wizards have won three times since the former No. 1 overall pick made his season debut five games ago. Coming off the bench for coach Randy Wittman, Wall is averaging 15.6 points with 7.6 assists after scoring 24 with six assists in Saturday's 94-87 loss at the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Clippers. Washington's offense is unsurprisingly looking much better of late. The Wizards average a league-worst 90.8 points, but have recorded three of their nine 100-point games since Wall's return. Perhaps most importantly, Wall has instilled some much-needed confidence. "We've got two more games that I feel like we can win and we can end the (five-game) trip on a good note," Wall said. The Wizards have a league-worst 2-17 road record, but Portland has dropped three straight at home following a 9-0 stretch at the Rose Garden. The Blazers have played a franchise-record nine straight games decided by six points or fewer. They need to find a way to avoid slow starts, though, considering they've trailed by 17 at the half in their last two contests. "We definitely have had a trend of that lately," forward LaMarcus Aldridge said after Saturday's 110-104 loss to Milwaukee. "We have to figure out how to shake it. We always start a little slow and we always find a way to come back, but if we have better starts, then we won't have to fight so hard to come back.'' The Blazers are shooting 40.6 percent from the field since their last victory. Point guard Damian Lillard, who scored 20 points but shot 6 of 21 on Nov. 28, is hitting 35.6 percent over the last four contests. However, he's coming off his sixth 20-point, 9-assist game of the season (26 and 10). No other rookie has one such game. Wizards guard Bradley Beal, right behind Lillard (18.3) in rookie scoring with 13.9 points per contest, is averaging a team-best 19.5 over the last six games. Beal is 20 for 30 from 3-point range during this stretch. Led by 29 points from Wall and 21 from Jordan Crawford, who led Washington with 19 on Nov. 28, the Wizards shot 60.0 percent and won 124-109 on Feb. 14 to snap a six-game skid at Portland. The Blazers played the final 46 minutes of that game without Aldridge (sprained left ankle).
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