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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Washington Wizards Preview

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The Portland Trail Blazers will take on the Washington Wizards at the Moda Center for their first game back after a three-game road trip. The Blazers are ringing off the hook, currently on a six-game winning streak with wins in nine of their last ten games. The Wizards are struggling to start this season, but are starting to bounce back after winning three consecutive games coming into this game.

Saturday, February 20 – 7:00 p.m. PT
Watching on TV: NBCSNW, League Pass or watch games all season fuboTV to follow ESPN +, or the ESPN / Disney bundle
Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), CJ McCollum (out), Harry Giles (out) Wizards Injuries: Thomas Bryant (out), Ish Smith (out)
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  • Wing Defense. The Wizards feature star-level guards in Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal, and their defensive game plan is to score more than their opponent most evenings. Gary Trent Jr., Derrick Jones Jr. and Robert Covington will play a vital role in an effort to stop the onslaught of scorers on the wings of the Wizards. Bradley Beal has been the divisions’ top scorer so far, averaging 33 points per game, but the Wizards are only 2-6 in games he scores under 30. If the Blazers can contain Bradley Beal’s one-man army, their chances of winning are skyrocketing.
  • Gary Trent Jr. Trent has averaged 18.1 points per game so far this year in the absence of CJ McCollum, while shooting 45% of three out of 8.5 tries. Trent has stepped up and demonstrated his ability to be a novice player in the NBA for years to come, and his rise has come at the right time for the Blazers as he helped fill the scoring gap left by McCollum. He has scored at least 15 points in the past nine games, including four games of 20 points or more on that stretch.
  • Damian Lillard. It seems a bit cliché at this point to say that Damian Lillard is integral to the success of the Blazers, but he’s the driving force behind this team. He currently averages 29.8 points per game and 7.7 assists, but that number has risen to 31.9 points and 8.6 assists per game in McCollum’s absence. Lillard is a transcendent scorer and basketball talent, and his game level only increases when he gets a chip on his shoulder, and the latest chip has been delivered in the form of an all-star starter rejection. This disapproval could turn out to be everything Lillard needs to run wild after this announcement, trying to prove once again that the doubters are wrong when it comes to his game.

Mike DePrisco of NBC Sports Washington talked about the boost the Wizards have recently received from their new starting line-up.

A big reason for the Wizards’ latest turnaround came from a drastic lineup change that Brooks made last week, putting Moe Wagner and Garrison Mathews in the starting line-up alongside Bradley Beal, Russell Westbrook and Rui Hachimura.

The Wizards needed a jolt of energy in the starting lineup, and those two additions brought in spades. This setup scores a nice 115.7 points per 100 possessions, but currently defends itself at an insane level (83.3 defensive rating). Wagner’s versatility on the defensive side positively impacts the overall avarice of the Wizards’ front line, and it also helps that he developed into a pretty good flopper.

NBC Sports Washington writer Chase Hughes writes about the impact Russell Westbrook had when he took his team to a victory over the Denver Nuggets a few nights ago.

At the beginning of this season, before Russell Westbrook ever played a game for the Wizards, head coach Scott Brooks and others raved about his leadership and the tone he sets for his teammates. They believed he would have a winning impact on the Wizards with his intangibles as much as with his bouncing, passing and scoring.

Wednesday evening we saw that come to life at the end of the first quarter. Westbrook ripped out his teammates about their efforts in key areas that the Denver Nuggets beat them on their way to an early 20-point lead.

The Wizards caught momentum shortly after and drove it to a 46-23 second quarter. They would eventually win the game, their third straight series, despite a seesaw ending.

Kevin Broom from Bullets Forever comments about Scott Brooks and whether he is the right coach for this Wizards team.

I know a lot of fans would prefer Brooks to be sent to the glue factory instead of the pasture. I’m in no way going to argue that Brooks did a good job that he didn’t. At the same time, I don’t think he cost the team as much as many fans think. They run standard NBA sets (lots of horns and custom horns) and they have some good counters, fake actions, and post timeout games. There are some original and creative ideas, but nothing inconsistent with NBA coaching standards.

His lineups and playing time decisions leave a lot to be desired. Rather than picking a rotation and sticking with it for a few games, he would guess from night to night which players might be effective. And he’s merged them into lineup groups that don’t seem designed to maximize anyone’s effectiveness. On the other hand, the selection is filled with a bunch of guys with a performance level in roughly the same category. Deciding who is playing when there isn’t much to distinguish them is challenging.

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