Almost a year later, the narrative has flipped. Hardly anyone is suggesting Damian Lillard is a better point guard than John Wall anymore. It’s because the Wizards are now two games over .500 for the first time in their most dominant defensive performance for four quarters in a long time in Monday’s 120-101 blowout of the Portland Trail Blazers.
It’s Washington’s 12th consecutive win at Verizon Center, where they are 17-6 and has a distinct home court advantage that was absent during a 41-41 disappointment last season. The Blazers came here on MLK day on Jan. 16, 2015 and blew the doors off in a 108-98 win that wasn’t nearly as close as the final margin might indicate.
Wall (24 points, 7 assists) and Bradley Beal (25 points) dominated. Beal set a game-high on just 11 shots to lead all scorers. Markieff Morris (17 points, 13 rebounds) was a force as well, and Kelly Oubre (18 points) and Tomas Satoransky (10 points, 10 rebounds) came off the bench to round out the effort.
Marcin Gortat (6 points, 6 rebounds) had trouble finishing at the rim which was why he shot just 3-for-9 but the Blazers gambled off him and paid for it.
Between the end of the first quarter and the start of the second — with mostly reserves on the floor — the Wizards went on a 17-0 run to put away Portland (18-25) early.
Lillard (22 points) led the Blazers but didn’t have much help otherwise. He combined with C.J. McCollum for 41 in that blowout a year ago.
-- Unlike in the fourth quarter of the blowout vs. the Philadelphia 76ers, Wall and Beal had to re-enter briefly at 7:28 left when Portland trimmed the deficit to 105-87. He scored his two second-half points off foul shots, Wall drained a three and then gave up the ball to Beal for a breakaway dunk to force a stoppage at 4:39. Both left the floor up 114-92 and didn’t return and both teams emptied their benches.
--The aggression defensively that has only appeared for a quarter or a half was there the entire game. The Wizards blew up the dribble-handoffs and dribble-pitch exchanges to get the Blazers out of sync. Eight of their 15 turnovers came in the first quarter. Gortat helped with containment to keep Lillard and McCollum from getting to the rim.
--Morris was one point shy of a double-double at halftime. He has three after Monday after coming up one rebound short in the previous two games. It wasn’t just his rebounding but his effort to contest shooters that contributed to a defense that kept Portland to 42 percent shooting.
--Satoransky had his first true breakout game, with eight points in his first eight minutes. He made all three of his shots, including his first three-pointer since Nov. 21. Satornasky played 21 minutes against the Sixers in the last game and 19 Monday.
--McCollum picked up his third foul at 6:34 of the second quarter to knock him further out of rhythm following a 2-for-7 start from the floor. Beal kept the pressure on and made him defend to get him into foul trouble, keeping his dribble alive even when faced with a second defender to create. He had 21 first-half points on 6-for-8 shooting. He also was 6-for-6 from the line.
--After leaving the last game with a right hip strain for the second time this season, Otto Porter (12 points) played 30 minutes and made a three-pointer to end the first half for a 75-50 lead.