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Takeaways from Wizards' blowout win over Blazers

Takeaways from Wizards' blowout win over Blazers

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. 

[RELATED: Wizards head coach Scott Brooks shares thoughts on MLK]

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Three things to watch for Wizards vs. Blazers, as John Wall and Damian Lillard square off

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Three things to watch for Wizards vs. Blazers, as John Wall and Damian Lillard square off

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Dwight Howard and the Washington Wizards take on Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic and the Portland Trail Blazers. Tipoff is at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Schedule heats up

The Wizards really needed that one on Friday night. Though the Nets, even without Caris LeVert, aren't an easy out, the Wizards wanted to fully take advantage of a soft spot of their schedule. It's tough to lose to the Nets when you consider the road ahead.

The Wizards play seven straight games against teams at .500 or better. That includes a road game against the Raptors, who are tied for the league's best record. They also see the Rockets, the Pelicans twice and play at the Sixers. It all begins Sunday against the Blazers, who are tied for the fourth-best record in the NBA.

Rematch

Most of the Wizards' games this season have been lopsided one way or the other, and usually in the direction they would not prefer. But they have played a few close games and their most entertaining one happened to come against this same Blazers team.

The Wizards and Blazers went to overtime on Oct. 22 in Portland. The Wizards forced the extra period thanks to a three by Bradley Beal, and they won thanks to Otto Porter Jr. blocking Damian Lillard's shot in the closing seconds. 

The Wizards and Blazers have played some classics in recent years. Markieff Morris beat them with a game-winning three two years ago and last season Beal dropped 50 at the Moda Center. The matchup between both teams' star guards seems to bring the best out in everyone.

Howard vs. Nurkic

Much of the focus in this matchup is always on John Wall and Beal vs. Lillard and C.J. McCollum, but there will be a lot of action in the paint with Dwight Howard going up against Jusuf Nurkic. The Blazers are one of the best rebounding teams in the game and Nurkic, who pulls in 10.7 per game, is a big reason why. Nurkic also averages 15.5 points.

Howard is coming off his best game as a Wizard. He had 25 points and 17 rebounds against the Nets on Friday night. He was hurt when the teams first met in Portland.

Both are bruisers around the rim who don't stretch the floor with outside shots. It should be a physical battle on Sunday night.

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Former Wizard Jared Dudley: Time for a Wizards shake-up

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Former Wizard Jared Dudley: Time for a Wizards shake-up

Jared Dudley spent one season with the Washington Wizards. The core pieces on the current roster were there during that 2015-16 campaign. Based on that prior experience and a first-hand look Friday night, the Brooklyn Nets forward offered a candid assessment of the 5-10 squad. 

"I’m seeing a team that has been together too long,” Dudley told NBC Sports Washington following the Wizards’ 115-104 home loss. “They haven’t made progress, so it’s time to change things over there.”

John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter were teammates of Dudley for a full season. Markieff Morris joined the roster at the 2016 trade deadline. Washington failed to make the playoffs that season, but qualified in each of the next two and has reached the postseason in four of the five last years. 

The Wizards did not advance beyond the second round during any of those postseason appearances and lost in the first round last season after a 43-39 regular season. Following a 2-9 start, Washington won three in a row before falling to a scrappy Nets team that lost leading scorer Caris Levert earlier in the week to a gruesome ankle injury.

Dudley started and played 22 minutes in Brooklyn's win. The 12-year veteran's opinion on Washington included suggestions like extended use of a small-ball lineup. 

“I think (they have) good players, but sometimes, good players need different situations. For them, I think that it’s tough the way the league is changing. They play two bigs,” Dudley said about the combination of power forward Markieff Morris and center Dwight Howard. “In this day in age, Otto needs to play more four because he’s tall enough, more spacing.”

Facing a Brooklyn defense that leads the league in opponent mid-range shots, Washington often settled for such looks. The Wizards attempted a season-low 18 three-point attempts. 

The NBA rumor mill continually attempts to plot a new course for the Wizards. New York Times NBA insider Marc Stein reported that the Minnesota Timberwolves tried to “engage” Washington in trade talks for Jimmy Butler before shipping the All-Star guard to Philadelphia. “But the Wizards have kept Beal off limits amid their 4-9 start,” Stein reported earlier this week. “They would naturally prefer to trade the struggling Otto Porter, or perhaps even John Wall, but both possess hard-to-move contracts.”

Dudley sees the logic of moving at least one of those three players.

“I think they’ve had enough time, but they really haven’t (broken) through,” Dudley said. “I can see by the All-Star break or summer time one of these pieces moving. It’s going to be good for them. If it’s John, or Otto or Brad, one of them three, I think their next move is going to be good for both teams."