Wizards

Beal outduels Lillard in Wizards' fourth-straight win

Wizards

The Washington Wizards beat the Portland Trailblazers 118-111 on Saturday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

Four in a row

Strange but good things always seem to happen for the Wizards when they travel to Portland. The games are usually close, the stars show out and the Wizards often come away with wins.

That was the case once again on Saturday night, as the Wizards edged the Blazers for their fourth straight win, a season-high win streak that is also their longest since 2018. They have won four out of their last five games in Portland.

The Wizards won despite getting outdone badly on the three-point line. Portland went 19-for-55 from three, while the Wizards made just 6-of-26. The Wizards have won several games lately in spite of their three-point shooting. If they can get going beyond the arc, look out.

The Wizards also won even though Damian Lillard went off for 35 points and 12 assists. He had an unreal 23 points in the third quarter alone, including a buzzer-beating three from the logo. That was after a 2-for-13 first half.

With the fourth straight win, the Wizards are now 10-17 on the season. They are just 1 1/2 games out of the 10th spot in the East, which is the final play-in seed, and 2 1/2 games out of eighth.

Westbrook's best game

The Wizards have seen Russell Westbrook get better and better as this season has gone on, both due to his quad injury healing and his chemistry with teammates continuing to develop. Saturday night was arguably the best version they have seen of him yet.

 

Westbrook was in vintage form, flooding the box score with 27 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds. It was his eighth triple-double of the season already in 20 games and that is the second-most for any player in franchise history only to Darrell Walker, who had 15. 

Westbrook was living in the paint and finding teammates with crisp passes once the defense collapsed. Now, he still turned the ball over seven times. But the biggest difference in the box score was his shooting, as he went 11-for-17 from the field in his most efficient game since being traded for the Wizards. 

Westbrook even flashed some bounce by throwing down a putback slam after the whistle. It was yet another indication he is feeling healthier and continuing to regain his explosiveness.

Big second quarter

This game followed a familiar trajectory in that the Wizards went down early due to terrible defense, but then battled their way back. The Wizards were down 43-31 after the first quarter, yet responded with a huge second to go into halftime with a 61-55 lead.

The Wizards outscored Portland 30-12 in the second quarter, holding them to without a field goal for the final 5:01 of the half. The 12 points allowed were the fewest by a Wizards opponent in a quarter since March 31, 2019, back in the 2018-19 season. 

Lineup creativity

The Wizards engineered that comeback in part thanks to some lineup shifting by head coach Scott Brooks. To the surprise of many, he went to Isaac Bonga early in the second quarter instead of Garrison Mathews or Deni Avdija at the three.  Bonga hadn't really played meaningful minutes in weeks.

After trying all three of his centers in the first quarter, only to see Enes Kanter get hot early, Brooks then went small with Rui Hachimura at the five in a lineup that had Westbrook and Neto as the guards and Bonga and Davis Bertans as the forwards. He was also trying to cover more ground on the three-point line, as Portland went a ridiculous 8-for-17 from the perimeter in the first quarter.

They were unconventional lineup decisions for Brooks and the Wizards, but they worked. It's hard to argue with a 30-12 quarter.

Beal loves the Moda Center

You may recall that Beal has the scoring record for a visiting player against the Blazers. He scored 51 points back in 2017, which was then a career-high. He has, of course, since surpassed that a few times, including this year when he dropped 60 on the Sixers.

Beal had another monster game in Portland on Saturday with 37 points. He shot 16-for-27 and also had seven rebounds. It was another masterful performance in what was his first game since being named an All-Star starter.

One of the more amazing things about Beal's season so far is how every night it seems like he puts up a 'quiet' 30 or 40 points. He's never been a particularly flashy player, but that seems to be taken to a different degree this year with Westbrook. 

Westbrook is such a dynamic athlete and player that you can't take your eyes off of him. You can't look away, knowing he's either going to do something special or stupefying. Meanwhile, Beal just casually puts up absurd numbers, almost like he's barely even breaking a sweat sometimes.

 

Tune in to NBC Sports Washington at 9 p.m. Monday for full coverage of the Wizards' next game against the Los Angeles Lakers.