Blazers Down Wizards Behind Three Point Threats


The Portland Trail Blazers didn’t have the luxury of a deep bench against the Washington Wizards, but in perfect irony, they earned a victory thanks to distance shooting. Using the gravity of Damian Lillard, the Blazers pushed their way through 21 3 points on their way to a much needed 132-121 victory.

The Blazers had to know there was something in the air when Robert Covington, in the midst of arguably the longest shooting crisis of his career, opened a perfect 3 of 3 in the opening minutes. This precision proved to be contagious throughout the rotation, especially among the wings.

Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood combined aggressiveness and efficiency, combining for 15 points in the opening period alone. Even Carmelo Anthony rediscovered his touch, taking advantage of Davis Bertans to score eight quick points in this midfield.

Portland’s group effort eased the scoring burden for Damian Lillard, allowing him to focus on setting up the table and even take on the mission of keeping the NBA’s top scorer at Bradley Beal for a few possessions. At the end of the quarter, Portland had a 17 point lead to show.

Long after his playing career is over, Gary Trent Jr. should have plenty of clips to show the next generation (hopefully future Blazers legend Gary Trent III). He opened the second quarter with an exciting mini-duel with future Hall-of-Famer Russell Westbrook, equaling him point for point (8 each), in the opening minutes before the start of the Carmelo Anthony Show.

It was around this time that Trail Blazers fans probably remembered that the Wizards had this type of Bradley Beal too. He’s pretty good. On offense, he and Westbrook helped bring the Wizards back into the game, totaling 22 of the Wizards’ 40 points in the second quarter.

League Pass watchers probably came to expect a battle between Lillard and Beal, but it didn’t live up to the hype in the first half. Washington mixed up defensive missions on Lillard. But in what he lacked on the pitch, he more than made up for it at the charity strip, guiding the Blazers to an 18 of 18 finish at halftime.

If he was tasked with finding a word to define this game, “spacing” should be. Even having a sub-optimal shooter (for his standards), Damian Lillard remained the most feared man on the floor.

During this third quarter, the Blazers have opened a ton of sets that could be solid benchmarks. They used double-drag screens to free Lillard, simple two-man sets where he leads one way, drawing one defense and passing the other, and even “Horns” sets that freed him from the ball.

The final result? 100 points. A free meal of six McNugget chicken pieces with some free time in this third quarter.

We’ve probably all said it internally before, but it has the potential to be a staple game for the Blazers in the future. They’ve weathered storm after storm, arriving with opportune buckets to play on the sidelines against a never-say-die Wizards side with just two nights of scoring 136 points in 39 minutes. And since it was the second game in a row, taking care of business was essential.

Portland’s victory unfolded similarly to a box office movie. Almost every member of the Blazers’ rotation has had their “moment”, where they scored tonight’s game. Unfortunately for Washington, Damian Lillard played the spoiler, taking over with the game in the balance. The Wizards certainly made it a game down the home stretch, but Portland responded well to a mental challenge in tonight’s win.

Other quick thoughts:

  • Their hot start allowed the Blazers to dictate conditions, but while they didn’t frequently jump 17 points ahead, their scramble was key. They forced seven turnovers in the first quarter, swallowed up 14 offensive rebounds and came close to scoring 23 of 23 from the free throw line.
  • Carmelo Anthony edged out another NBA legend, passing Dominique Wilkins for 13th on the NBA all-time scorecard. Next stop: Oscar Robertson. Perhaps even more important than the points he scored tonight, Anthony was creative in how he got them. He made cuts, detected mismatches, and mixed up catch-and-shoot opportunities with his loyal fadeaways.
  • It was inspiring to see Portland’s supporting cast win that 4 on 3, as the Wizards went to blitz Lillard. To his credit, Lillard extended his dribbling to give his teammates more room to work. But each time, the likes of Covington, Trent Jr. and Hood made the right passes to place their teammates in those deep corners.

The score of the box

And after:

The Blazers face the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday at 5:00 p.m. in the Pacific.

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