Damian Lillard scored 40 points for the third time this season as the Portland Trail Blazers pick up their first win of this six-game road trip, defeating the Washington Wizards 119 to 109. The Trail Blazers took a 21 point lead into the fourth quarter that was never in serious danger even as the Wizards bench unit fought to keep it close, cutting the lead to just 8 at one point. Jusuf Nurkic was two assists shy of a triple-double, contributing 13 points, 14 rebounds, and 8 assists in 31 minutes of work, with CJ McCollum added 25 points on 56% shooting. John Wall scored 24 points, while Bradley Beal got into early foul trouble and ended the game with only 12 points in 26 minutes of action.
The Blazer bench was led tonight by Evan Turner with 8 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists, while Zach Collins added 7 points despite only 13 minutes of playing time due to foul trouble. Anfernee Simons got meaningful playing time for the second straight game with Seth Curry out, but struggled mightily with the aggressive defense of John Wall and only played 5 minutes and shot 0-2 from the field.
Dwight Howard started the game but didn’t play in the second half after aggravating a gluteal injury. Washington was better without him; Howard switched onto the Blazer guards every time Nurkic set them a screen and left the middle wide open for an easy bucket from the Bosnian Beast off of an easy pass. While he may have been a dominant defensive center at one point, you wouldn’t have guessed it watching him play tonight.
The Trail Blazers improve to 11-5 on the season while the Wizards fall to 5-11 in what has been an extremely disappointing start to the young season for Washington fans. The Blazers now claim the best record in the Western Conference and are quickly quieting anyone who may have written them off. Never doubt Rip City.
· At the 4:25 mark in the 1st quarter, the Blazers put on a passing clinic as they hypnotized the Wizards defense with 9 passes which ended with a Jake Layman three pointer, putting the Blazers up by 17. Damian Lillard described it as a play “Steve Blake would have been proud of.”
· Damian Lillard proved that every second matters with his hustle at the end of the 2nd quarter as he sprinted down the floor to attempt a put-back off a miss and was pushed in the back. The play was reviewed to confirm the time remaining and Lillard sank 2 free throws to give the Blazers a 21 point half time lead.
· Damian Lillard had 4 points in 3 seconds as he finishes a tough layup with 1:50 left in the third, then immediately stole the inbound pass and hit a tough layup while getting fouled by Jason Smith. While he didn’t convert the free throw, the finish was very Jordan-like and pushed the lead to 29 points.
Who Got Next?
Portland continues their 6 game road trip on Tuesday by visiting the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden. The Knicks (4-13) were defeated by the Orlando Magic in their last game 131 – 117. The Knicks are a young, but exciting team still working on figuring out how to convert pure talent into NBA success. They’re led by Coach David Fizdale who is in his first season as the Knicks head coach. Portland will get a chance to go against the explosive Tim Hardaway Jr and former Blazers starter Noah Vonleh. The game will be aired on NBCSNW and NBA TV at 4:30 PM Tuesday. You can also listen in as Travis Demers and Casey Holdahl call the game on Rip City Radio 620 AM.