WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards lost to the Portland Trail Blazers 124-116 on Friday night at Capital One Arena. Here are five takeaways from what went down...
The Wizards had just completed a perfect road trip, were winners of six straight overall and got Daniel Gafford back when they returned home to face the Blazers on Friday night. Despite all of that working in their favor, they suffered a deflating loss to Portland that saw them surrender a 20-point lead.
The Wizards got that lead in the first quarter, as they blew the doors open to go up 34-14. But the Blazers stuck around to chip away and then pour in a ton of threes in the second half to run away with the win.
The loss dropped the Wizards to 24-27 on the season. They next head to Brooklyn for the second game of a back-to-back before coming home once again for their next three.
The Wizards blew their 20-point first-half lead namely because the Blazers got hot from long range and, once they did, Washington couldn't regain control. Portland went 17-for-41 (41.5%) from long range and made threes in key moments in the fourth quarter. Shaedon Sharpe tied the game at 99-99 to complete the comeback on a three from the wing. Josh Hart then followed with another to give them their first lead.
The Blazers are top-10 in the NBA in all 3-point shooting categories but the Wizards actually held them in check early. Portland only had four threes in the entire first half. But they then sank nine in the third quarter alone and followed that up with four threes in the fourth. There were some set up by tremendous ball movement to find open shooters, but they also made close-contested shots. Anfernee Simons made a variety of threes, tying a career-high with nine of them.
While their 3-point defense was dreadful, it was another good game for the Wizards shooting from the outside, continuing a trend recently. They shot 12-for-33 (36.4%) from deep, making for the ninth straight game they have hit at least 10 threes. That's their longest streak of double-digit threes since the 2020-21 season.
Whether the Wizards believe this recent improvement is sustainable may be evident in how they treat the trade deadline. Overall this season 3-point shooting has been one of their biggest weaknesses but lately, they have made some real strides.
Beal and Porzingis
The Wizards got their offense rolling early behind a huge first half for Kristaps Porzingis and Bradley Beal. Porzingis had 19 of his 32 points in the first half, while Beal had 18 of his 24 points. Porzingis scored 13 points in the first 10 minutes and finished the night shooting 9-for-15 from the field, including 11-for-12 from the free-throw line.
Beal was also efficient, knocking down 14-for-25 overall. He looked extra quick, like he benefitted from the extra time off due to Wednesday's postponement, as he continues to work his way back from the hamstring injury.
This was a fairly rare game for the Wizards where Beal and Porzingis, the team's two highest-paid players, were rolling offensively to this degree at the same time. Beal's injuries this year have thrown a wrench into that, but also there have been many games where one guy caught fire while the other just had a normal night.
Kispert off the bench
With Beal and Porzingis setting the tone in the starting lineup, Corey Kispert did a nice job of sustaining the momentum off the bench. He returned to the second unit with Gafford coming back from a brief absence due to a non-COVID illness. Kispert looked comfortable in that role, scoring 12 points, including nine in the first half.
Kispert scored a few quick baskets as soon as he entered the game. He took off from the corner on a catch-and-go to drive baseline and finish off the glass through traffic. He made a wing three, then got an easy layup for running the floor behind a turnover forced by Deni Avdija on Damian Lillard. Kispert shot 5-for-8 for the evening, including two threes to make it 25 straight games with a triple.