home 2013-14, Blogs, Game Coverage GameDay: Wizards vs. Blazers – A ‘flowery’ backcourt matchup

GameDay: Wizards vs. Blazers – A ‘flowery’ backcourt matchup


Wizards (35-32) at Trail Blazers (44-24)

March 20, 2014 at 10:00 PM
Moda Center, Portland, OR
TV: CSN Washington
Radio: 106.7FM The Fan


Projected starting lineups:


C- Marcin Gortat
PF- Trevor Booker
SF- Trevor Ariza
SG- Bradley Beal
PG- John Wall


C- Robin Lopez
PF- Dorell Wright
SF- Nicolas Batum
SG- Wesley Matthews
PG- Damian Lillard


First meeting since..

February 3, 2014 @ Verizon Center

The night the spirit of graciousness finally descended upon the Washington Wizards and ascended them to a winning record after nine prior failed attempts. This was a model game for John Wall who totaled 22 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks, and a cliche partridge in a pear tree. This was also a model game for the Wizards as a team who finished with an assist-to-turnover margin of 22-6.


The Matchup

John Wall & Damian Lillard flossing the new Adidas Florist City Collection sneakers.


It’s certainly proper for two premiere uprising point guards to pay homage to their respective NBA city’s floral spirits. Portland of course with its abundant rose gardens, and DC celebrating its distinguished cherry blossom season. Both players jumped on the opportunity to connect with their city by promoting floral-themed sneakers and last night in Portland, they were harbored behind a corner cocktail table inside The Compound Gallery signing autographs and posing in front of cameras with their new kicks.

It’s not determined whether or not they have the privilege of wearing them in tonight’s game but what we do know will be present is a flowery matchup between two of the league’s best young stars. Lillard has appropriately followed up his Rookie of the Year campaign with another great season, averaging just around 21 points and six assists a game. He’s improved his 3-point shot, become stronger at the rim, and has sustained his mind boggling abilities to create for himself on a whim. Oh.. he’s actually also a pretty decent rapper too and is reportedly aspired to drop an album in the near future via this USA Today article. Here’s a snippet via his Instagram..


Focal Point: To score, but not to be scored on.

The Blazers rank #1 in the league in points scored per game with an average of 107.6 and also lead the league in rebounds per game. While most of their points are manufactured in the paint, one of their strongest offensive suits is shooting from the wings. Yes, I’m talking about long 2’s, Randy Wittman. The Blazers shoot better than the league average from both the left and right wings, a manifest to the well-rounded establishment of efficient perimeter shooting, even from their bigs.

The Wizards, a decent team defensively, will have their work cut out for them. The Blazers are prone to executing pick and rolls in a variety of ways which lead to both high percentage midrange jumpers and open lanes to the rim. Even with LaMarcus Aldridge (most likely) out for this game, they’ve got guys like Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews and Lillard who can efficiently score from any area of the floor. Robin Lopez, who is labeled below as the team’s x-factor by our guest writer David McKay, has been wondrous for the Blazers under the rim. While Lopez’ range doesn’t extend too far from the basket, the Wizards do need to be weary of his touch around the key.

Aldridge’s absence, however, should help the Wizards contain the Blazers’ scoring prowess. His size forces his big defenders to account for him away from the basket in the high post, an area where he can effectively make passes on the perimeter, set a screen and roll for a high percentage jumper or simply gallop to the basket. These traits usually open a whirlwind of opportunities for the Blazers on offense and without it, the Wizards need to pounce on the advantage.


Behind Enemy Lines

David MacKay (@DavidMackayNBA), Editor-in-Chief of RipCityProject.com joins us to talk about the Blazers’ success this season, some insight on Thomas Robinson and LaMarcus Aldridge, and “Portlandia.”


[Sam Forencich/Getty]

1) Before the season began, we expected the Blazers to be good. What really wasn’t expected was the monster start to the season and the Blazers to be competing at this contending level, remaining steadfast along with the best of the West. We’ve come to know the elite prowess of LMA and the aptitude of Damian Lillard, but what would you define as the true x-factor for the Blazers’ surging success this season?

David: Honestly, it’s that everyone bought in. There is a lot of talent in Portland this year, but even before the season began there were signs of something extra special getting ready to happen. When the team was just a frustrated LaMarcus Aldridge, an inexperienced Nicolas Batum/Wesley Matthews, and injured players A-Z, no one with legitimate options would consider Portland as a destination in free agency. Once Damian Lillard broke out and the semblance of a future began to form, players like Mo Williams and Dorell Wright were easy to bring on board. Even Sacramento Kings power forward Carl Landry wanted a spot, but the lack of space allowed the Trail Blazers to dodge that meniscus seeking missile. Each player on the roster believes that this team is built to win (big thanks to General Manager Neil Olshey on that one). The Trail Blazers’ x-factor has been their unified drive.

But if you’re looking for one individual on the floor, it’s definitely Robin Lopez. Having a true center fighting tooth and nail on the interior has allowed Aldridge to take his game to the next level. LMA no longer has to wear himself out trying to help the now long-gone J.J. Hickson on defense, and he has a 7’0” buddy occupying the Goliath defenders on the other end. Lopez’s presence makes everyone better, and his fit in Portland’s system creates a rewarding opportunity for personal growth as well.


[Thomas Boyd/The Oregonian]

2) Thomas Robinson is an embraced DC native and former top 5 pick from the 2012 Draft who hasn’t had quite the fruitful start to his pro career, spending his first two years with three different NBA teams. There seems to be plenty of upside in his game but also plenty of struggle trying to fit him into a defined role. So now, I beg to ask exactly what is the outlook for him in Portlandia?

David: Ahhh, T-Rob. He’s one of my favorite players to keep an eye on. I personally believe that the Trail Blazers brought him on as an insurance policy in case the season was a massive failure and Aldridge forced a trade (the darkest timeline). At $3.5M a season through 2015, followed by a team option, Robinson isn’t going anywhere soon. Cheap talent with a high ceiling is hard to come by, and worth its weight in qualifying offers (2016). Unfortunately, this means that he’ll be a bench booster until Aldridge either leaves (unlikely at this point) or keels over (a terrifying possibility given his medical record). That may be for the best in the here-and-now, since Stotts’ sets have Robinson wandering the court like a blind man in a labyrinth at times.


3) If you were asked to choose any hit song from any era to describe the collective reaction of Rip City when LaMarcus Aldridge was being carried off to the locker room after his back injury, which would you choose? And by the way, what’s the timeline on his return looking like?

David: Which one has the most expletives? Probably that one. Failing that, my knee-jerk reaction is “Hurt” by the Nine Inch Nails. To appease my Portland hipsters, we’ll make it the Johnny Cash cover (it was better anyway). The song leads in with, “I hurt myself today to see if I still feel. I focus on the pain – the only thing that’s real.” Portland is all too familiar with this sort of heartache when it comes to the Trail Blazers. As for Aldridge’s recovery, he’s off of crutches, but I doubt he’ll play tonight. In fact, I’d be a little surprised if he plays on Saturday either. Lower back injuries are difficult to accommodate for Aldridge because you can’t just slap a splint on it, give him a hearty butt-slap, and wish him the best of luck.


[Bruce Ely/The Oregonian ]

4) Bridging back to my “Portlandia” reference, as a fan of the show I’m inclined to ask: has Fred Armisen attended any Blazers home games?

David: He’s been spotted at least a time or two. Usually his co-star Carrie Brownstein is with him. The Trail Blazers have embraced the show and routinely play a brief pre-game skit on the jumbotron featuring the actors in their “feminist bookstore” character, warning the crowd not to get too raucous. Something about a wigged Fred Armisen glaring at you is more intimidating than any security guard could ever be. They really are fans of the team, and the team is a fan of them.

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