The Washington Wizards lost to the Blazers 127-118 in Portland on Saturday night. Here are five observations from what went down...
With Bradley Beal out for the year, the rest of this season for the Wizards has become more about player development than wins and losses, yet the way they lost on Saturday night left little to feel good about, even if it helped their odds to secure a lottery pick.
The Wizards lost for the sixth time in eight games, this time to a depleted and downtrodden Blazers team missing Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Jusuf Nurkic and Nassir Little, among many others. In addition to Beal, the Wizards played without Kristaps Porzingis as he rested on the second night of a back-to-back, but they had far more NBA experience remaining on their roster.
The Blazers, though, led by 22 points at their peak and never really let the Wizards within close range after they took control. It was a thorough and unmitigated beatdown handed out by a team with a lot of players who are far from household names.
The Wizards dropped to 29-37 on the year, at a season-worst eight games under .500. They are tied for the 11th-worst record in the NBA, which is the exact same place they were before they lost six of eight, which is not ideal.
Hart was unstoppable
This game got away from the Wizards early and mainly because of one player; Josh Hart. After LeBron James dropped 33 points in the second half against Washington on Friday, Hart was somehow just as dominant in the first half the following night. He made five threes in his first 13 minutes and reached halftime with 28 points (10-14 FG), six rebounds, four assists and four steals. He got hot and just started heat-checking shots, most of which went in.
Hart kept it rolling in the second half and finished with a career-high 44 points on 15-for-21 shooting. It was a masterpiece. With so many players out for the Blazers, you have to imagine Hart was top of mind on the scouting report. He was probably the most accomplished veteran left on their roster and is a professional bench scorer. The Wizards just had no answer for him.
KCP was good
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the Wizards' scoring effort against the Blazers with 26 points, including 19 in the first half. He shot 5-for-10 from three. Caldwell-Pope is always a threat from the outside but in this game, he did a nice job of attacking the paint as well. He got the line frequently and hit all nine of his free throws.
In addition to Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma was solid with 22 points. Corey Kispert added 15 points and Rui Hachimura had 12. Other than that, not too many positives to point to after this one. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. and his staff can't be too happy with how things transpired.
With all the Blazers' injuries, the tallest player they had on the roster Saturday night was Drew Eubanks, who stands 6-foot-9. Even with Porzingis out, the Wizards had a size advantage on Portland, but they couldn't capitalize on it. The Blazers dominated them in paint points 70-to-42. They got rolling early with 24 paint points in the first quarter.
Defending the paint has more components than simply protecting the rim, so this isn't all on Daniel Gafford, though he certainly shares some blame and was seemingly benched late because of it. The Wizards didn't provide enough resistance against dribble penetration and didn't do a good job of contesting shots in the lane. It also didn't help that the Blazers got out and ran to the tune of 28 fastbreak points. The Wizards may have shown their fatigue there on the second night of a road back-to-back.
Bryant got some run
With Porzingis out, the Wizards turned to Thomas Bryant for some rare minutes at backup center. He hadn't played in the team's three previous games, once Porzingis entered the rotation. For this game, Gafford got bumped into the starting lineup, while Bryant and Anthony Gill split time as the five in the second unit.
Bryant had a solid game of nine points, four rebounds and three blocks. But just getting out there was a good sign for Bryant and, he can hope, an indication of more to come. If Porzingis is sitting the second night of back-to-backs, the Wizards have four more of those in their final 16 games this season. That could ensure Bryant at least a few more opportunities to play ahead of what will be an important summer for him with free agency on the horizon.