Washington 100, Portland 90, Game 47 of 82 (Wizards 24-23)
Washington came into Monday night’s home game against Portland striving to get above the .500 mark. Seven previous times this season, the Wizards lost the game immediately after their reaching break-even status. The Trailblazers are the highest-scoring team in the NBA. The challenge would be a formidable one.
The Wizards survived the Blazers’ (34-14) hot shooting in the first half to take a ten-point victory. Yes, Wizards’ fans – your favorite team has a winning record. John Wall’s play-making and a big night from reserve Kevin Seraphin put Washington over the top. Seraphin got major minutes in part because Trevor Booker was away from the team attending a personal matter.
For the game, Washington shot 44% from the field, and accumulated 39 rebounds, 22 assists on 37 baskets, 10 steals, only 6 turnovers and 3 blocked shots. Wall led five Wizards in double figures with 22 points. Wall also contributed 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocked shots. Trevor Ariza contributed 20 points, including four three-pointers. Seraphin pitched in with 19 points and five rebounds off the bench, in one of his most impressive efforts of the season.
After a hot start, Portland shot 45.7% from the floor. The Trailblazers totaled 45 rebounds, 23 assists on 37 baskets, 3 steals, 16 turnovers and 7 blocked shots. Damian Lillard led his team with 25 points, and added 8 assists and 6 rebounds. LaMarcus Aldridge poured in 20 points and captured 10 rebounds.
The first quarter was a primer of Portland’s strengths. This team leads the Association in scoring, and they made it look easy. The Blazers shot 61.9% from the floor in the quarter, as their unselfishness and accurate passing earned them numerous good looks at the basket. Washington, however, showed its own capability and teamwork. Marcin Gortat found Martell Webster on a give-and-go for a dunk, part of Washington’s shooting 54.2% from the floor for the quarter. Washington led at the end of one, 32-29, on a Seraphin hook shot.
Washington started the second quarter well. Seraphin hit another hook shot for a 43-36 Washington lead. Portland promptly reeled off a 12-0 run, fueled by four each from Lillard and Aldridge. This was a point where previous Wizards’ teams might have gotten distracted, but Monday night was different. Wall scored seven points and added an assist to keep Washington virtually even with the visitors. Washington led 56-55 at the half. Aldridge scored 14 for Portland in the first half, while Wall led Washington with 13.
After the halftime break, Washington flexed its defensive muscle. Portland went 6-of-17 from the field with 7 turnovers for the third quarter, as Washington won the period 26-14. After
the Blazers’ Nic Batum scored on a layup with 4:16 in the period (74-69, Wizards), Portland went scoreless. The Wizards closed the period on an 8-0 run, with Seraphin scoring the last four in that run. Washington led 82-69 at the end of three.
Seraphin kept up his offensive production going into the final period. He scored Washington’s first four points of the fourth quarter. The Wizards’ defense would need to be airtight in the quarter. After Ariza’s free throw on Lillard’s technical foul (87-72, Washington, 10:30 left), the Wizards went dry. Garrett Temple turned the ball over on three straight possessions, and the team missed its next three shots after that. But in that two-and-a-half minute stretch, the Blazers could only muster two Lillard free throws. Washington got back in offensive rhythm, as Seraphin contributed 3-of-4 free throws down the stretch. Wall contributed four points of his own, to send the Verizon Center fans home happy.
Next up for Washington is yet another contender from the Western Conference, the highly-regarded San Antonio Spurs (Wednesday, 5 February). Later in the week, the Wizards host Cleveland (Friday, 7 February), and Sacramento (Sunday, 9 February) before heading out on the road. Washington’s win over a pretty good Portland team could serve as a lesson for the Wizards, regarding how to close out a game against a legitimate contender.
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