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Wizards at Blazers Pregame: Pick Your Poison

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Regular Season Game 63

Wizards (30-32) at Blazers (33-31)

March 8, 2016 at 10:00 PM
Moda Center, Washington, DC
TV: CSN Mid-Atlantic
Radio: 99.1FM


Last time they met was..

March 16, 2015 – Verizon Center: Wizards 105, Blazers 97
Read: Game Notebook 67, Wizards vs. Blazers – Some Restored Hope


What to watch

Two of the league’s top point guards going head to head. The raw stats:

  • John Wall: 20.0 points, 9.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 4.0 turnovers, 43% FG, 34% 3FG, 20.3 PER
  • Damian Lillard: 25.8 points, 6.9 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 3.3 turnovers, 43% FG, 37% 3FG, 23.3 PER

Pick your poison, both are deadly. Which one you prefer depends on your brand of assassination. John Wall is the slow killer, distributing potent venom to every aspect of the game, until he owns full control, and seizes life from his opponent. Damian Lillard is the stone cold killer, biding his time, then annihilating his opponent with strikes to the heart.

The argument can be made either way. So here we go:

The case for John Wall:

John Wall makes all of his teammates better, evidenced by his 9.8 assists per game. He keeps everyone involved, and raises the level of his not-so-superstar teammates. Otto Porter. Garrett Temple. Marcin Gortat. Jared Dudley. None of these guys are putting up numbers without John Wall creating everything for them.

Yes, Lillard is a better pure scorer. But Wall is a better pure point guard. Wall is averaging 20 per game himself, and averaging 23.7 points created via assist per game, per NBA.com. That’s 43.7 points per game coming from John Wall. Lillard averages 25.8, but just 16.5 points created via assist, for a total of 42.3 points per game. Advantage Wall.

Oh, and defense matters too. John Wall is like the Kawhi Leonard of point guard defenders. Damian Lillard is like the Damian Lillard of point guard defenders.

The case for Damian Lillard:

Damian Lillard has scored 50 points twice in the last month. Lillard dropped 51 in a victory over the Warriors, coming out of an All-Star break he somehow wasn’t involved in. Lillard can carry a team offensively for entire quarters, entire games, and entire seasons. If you like “true” point guards, and value assists over pure scoring, Damian Lillard isn’t really your type of PG.

However, Lillard’s impact extends beyond stats, and if you want to make the case for Lillard, this is the strongest aspect of your argument: Lillard’s presence dominates the game. ESPN’s Zach Lowe calls Damian Lillard the closest thing on Earth to Stephen Curry, and he’s right. After Curry, no one in the league can shoot off the dribble and with the type of range as Damian Lillard.

Because of Lillard, guarding Portland’s pick and roll offense is like guarding Golden State’s. You HAVE to contain Lillard, and you have to do it far from the basket. The result is offensive mismatches around the rest of the floor, making the game easier for everyone else.

Similarly, when Lillard doesn’t have the ball, he still has to be respected. He’s adept at drifting to open areas behind the arc, and the attention he requires creates space to operate for guys like CJ McCollum, Allen Crabbe, and Al-Farouq Aminu.

And when you want a clutch bucket, well…..

Pick your poison. You’re right either way.


Key Matchup

Wall vs. Lillard is the main event. But if both players bring their A-game, each will be the others antidote. So my key match-up?

Randy Wittman vs. Terry Stotts

Bad news Wizards fans. Wittman vs. Stotts is a whole lot more lopsided than Wall vs. Lillard. I’ll summarize it like this:

Westgate Las Vegas Superbook over/under for Win Totals for the 2015-2016 NBA Season:

  • Wizards: 45.5 wins
  • Blazers: 26.5 wins

In other words, the Wizards were expected to win about 45 games, and we’ll be lucky if they get to 40. The Blazers were expected to win about 27 games, and they’ve already won 33. A large part of the expectations for the Wizards is continuity. The Wizards were returning their entire core roster from a team that swept a first round playoff series, with young players that showed signs of growth during the playoffs. With the same players, you’d expect a coach to provide leadership and innovation leading to increased success and improved performance. Umm, about that….

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The Blazers on the other hand lost 80% of their starting line-up. All-Star and leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge left. Wes Mathews left. Nic Batum left. Robin Lopez left. The odds were that the Blazers would be a disaster. Instead, Stotts took his stripped down Portland hot-rod and gave it a full make-over, centered around his lone remaining star. An offense last year built around a mid-range shooting, post-up heavy big man is now a high tempo, free-flowing machine that posts up less than any team in the NBA. As a result, Portland is blazing a trail toward the NBA playoffs, while the Wizards fight just to keep hope alive. #Coaching.


X-factor

Bradley Beal CJ McCollum

This spot was reserved for a dynamic young 2-guard coming into his own and showing signs of future stardom. Let me try that again.

This spot was reserved for a HEALTHY, dynamic young 2-guard coming into his own and showing signs of future stardom. In case you haven’t watched much West Coast ball on NBA League Pass this season, let me tell you: This boy can BALL. He’s already got the Most Improved Award locked up, averaging 21 ppg this season, after averaging just 7 points per game last year. He can handle the rock. He can shoot with range. He can finish at the rim. He can play as the lead ball handler when Lillard sits, and thrive off the ball when they share the court. And when his J is falling, the Blazers win:

  • Wins: 22 ppg, 46% from three
  • Losses: 19 ppg, 36% from three

Cut off the head of the snake, and the body will die. But Portland’s viper is two headed, with Lillard and McCollum capable of scoring 30 in the same game on any given night. At least one must be stopped.


Fun Factor:

Dame D.O.L.L.A.

In case you didn’t know, now you know:

“Not an All-Star, I’m flu game sick.
Last time they count me out, what I do game six?”
– Dame

#Barz

Here’s how Damian Lillard spent his All-Star break (he starts in the second verse):

And here’s how he spent his summer:


Prediction

John Wall droppin dimes, and droppin the mic.

we are Hoop District

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