Blazers trio lead way past Wizards

Portland wins 116-103

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers Writer



PORTLAND — Portland’s Damian Lillard and Washington’s John Wall held an event together in downtown Portland on Wednesday to celebrate the release of a new shoe.

On Thursday, they did battle at the Moda Center.

However, while Wall’s running mate Bradley Beal was a cold 6-for-18 from the field, Wesley Matthews was hot all night for the second game in a row, finishing with 28 points.

Matthews, Lillard and a double-double from Nicolas Batum helped propel the Blazers to a 116-103 win over the Wizards.

After what Matthews called “a rough day at the office” on Tuesday when they needed overtime to beat the league-worst Milwaukee Bucks, the Blazers eviscerated a top-ten defensive team that’s fighting for home court in the playoffs.

The ball zipped around the perimeter, opening up the Blazers for 35 three-point attempts, of which the Blazers made 14.

Lillard scored 10 of his 21 points in the second quarter after Wall started off hot.

He continued finding open shooters and keyed a lot of Portland’s open shots with his pick-and-roll action. He finished with 10 assists on the night and collected only one turnover.

As opposed to battles with other point guards such as Kyrie Irving, Lillard took the task of guarding Wall for most of the game and vice versa.

The result was a tantalizing battle of two of the league’s best young point guards who both approach the game very differently.

Wall uses his speed and size to get to the basket and set up teammates while Lillard uses his shotmaking ability and ability to read angles.

However, Wall played the part of the marksman going 5-for-10 from three, while Lillard went 3-for-8. Wall finished with 14 assists to go along with his 14 points.

After going 0-for-8 from the field, Dorell Wright who has been inserted into the starting line-up without LaMarcus Aldridge found his stroke again on Thursday. Wright finished with 15 points and seven rebounds and also the admiration of his coach.

“Dorell Wright was terrific. I though his two hustle plays energized us in the second half,” Stotts said.

The play that stood out the most was a sequence at the 10:19 mark of the third quarter where Wright knocked down a three-pointer, got a steal on the other end which in turn got the Blazers another three-pointer.

“I feel like we set the tone with the last two minutes of the first half as far as getting into those guys and make them take tough shots and rebound the ball,” Wright said. “I think that’s what got it started.”

The Blazers went on a 20-2 run that started at the 1:37 mark of the first half and until the 9:12 mark of the third quarter.

They won the 3rd quarter 33-22 and although they made shots, the defense was just as key. Stotts saw the team draining threes but told them in a timeout that they needed to pick it up defensively and he saw Wright’s energy plays as a turning point.

Victor Claver also played big minutes off the bench as Meyers Leonard got in foul trouble early and Stotts elected to find some rest for Nicolas Batum. Claver pitched in seven points and five rebounds in 19 minutes.

Wall continued to hit his three-point shot, but the Wizards, a top-ten defensive team struggled to crowd Portland’s shooters. The Blazers had 32 assists, which was more than they’ve had in a game since Jan. 2.

The second half was also when Matthews started to find his stroke as he scored 18 of his 28 points in the second half.

The Blazers will now embark on a five-game Eastern Conference road trip which begins on Saturday in Charlotte when they face the playoff-bound Bobcats.

“It’s always tough on the road,” Stotts said. “This three-game home stand, it would have been nice to get all three. But pulling out a tough one against Milwaukee, a tough, close win was good for our confidence and then having a game like this hopefully will give us momentum.”

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