November 28, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (0) dribbles the ball as Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal (3) chases in the first half at Verizon Center. The Wizards won 84-82. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Wizards At Trail Blazers Preview (1/21/13)

Just days after losing to the Clippers on the road, the Washington Wizards have a chance to conclude MLK Day with a victory in Portland.

Key Match Up

Besides Washington’s own, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard has virtually no competition for the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. Lillard has averaged over 18 points and 6 assists thus far, which has propelled him into elite company in terms of former rookies. Lillard loves to get his teammates involved, but he certainly isn’t shy about putting some shots up. With Portland’s lack of depth at virtually any position, Lillard’s role has been expanded as a rookie. His great work ethic is evident, as Lillard has yet to hit the ‘rookie wall’ in any aspect. His style of play sort of reminds me of our pal, Gilbert Arenas. Lillard has been fantastic this year.

Lillard, though listed at 6’3, doesn’t have the size to be able to defend big point guards such as John Wall. As noted, he’s still a rookie and still has a long way to go on the defensive end of the floor. Lillard and Wall are the same age, but Wall has the edge in experience. His size and speed are something Wall needs to take advantage of, as he usually does, if the Wizards want to pick up their second road victory on this West Coast outing. Wall is coming off a great performance on Saturday night, scoring 24 points and connecting on 6 assists, all off the bench. With Wall’s minutes steadily increasing, I’d expect him to return to the starting lineup very soon. I’m very excited to see these two explosive point guards to head to head. I’m impressed with John Wall’s aggressiveness on defense as of late, and I’d look for that to continue against Lillard, who’s regarded as one of the best scoring point guards in the NBA.

Other Links/Notes

Prediction

The Blazers has lost five consecutive games, and will undoubtedly look to make a statement against the 8-30 Washington Wizards. The problem is, those 8-30 Wizards have actually looked pretty good since John Wall’s return. Washington is now 4-2 during their past six games.

Portland is one game behind the eight seed in the Western Conference, and need to pick up wins against teams such as the Wizards. The Blazers have zero depth outside of their starting lineup. They’re an above average offensive team, with Lamarcus Aldridge leading the crew. Aldridge is probably the most talented power forward in the western conference, not named Kevin Love. Without Aldridge carrying the load, the Blazers would find themselves in the lottery once again. With rookie Meyers Leonard out due to an ankle injury, Portland doesn’t have the size to match up defensively in the front court. Lukily for Portland, Leonard will “probably” end up playing against the Wizards tonight.

Portland, although not ranked in the upper echelon in shooting percentages, does have the guys capable of hitting shots. As noted, Damian Lillard has the potential to go off on any night. Nic Batum is very capable of hitting the three point shot, as well as using his length to get to the rim. He’s a very versatile player, and he fits in perfectly with their surround cast. Wesley Matthews who is averaging over 15 points per game, is shooting nearly 40 percent from three.

In order to win, Washington needs to be able to contain Aldridge. He’s capable of hitting mid range jump shots, so the Wizards need to do a good job of closing in on him. When he’s hot, Aldridge is impossible to defend. I’d look for Emeka Okafor to defend him, as he presents a bigger challenge to Aldridge than Nene.

Washington does have a good chance of winning another road game on this West Coast trip. John Wall has been surging as of late, and the team has been improving because of it. Portland isn’t a very deep team, so Washington has to do a good job in wearing Portland out. Getting out in transition is also another factor for Washington. Portland doesn’t particularly have the size, but they do have the length. Washington needs to utilize John Wall, and get out and run.

For the sake of being optimistic, I’ll pick the Wizards to win tonight. They’ve been playing exceptional ball as of late, and I expect that to continue.

Tags: Portland Trail Blazers Portland Trailblazers Washington Wizards

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