Feb 3, 2014; 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 third quarter at Verizon Center. The Wizards won 100-90. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Wizards vs. Trail Blazers preview: Game Time, Key Match Up, Notes and Prediction

After losing a heartbreaking game in overtime against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday, the Washington Wizards will continue their west coast road trip tonight versus the struggling Portland Trail Blazers. The game will tip off at 10:00 PM (EST) from the Moda Center.

Key Match Up:

With LaMarcus Aldridge out, the Portland Trail Blazers have struggled to get wins, losing 3 of their last 5 games in his absence. Aldridge has been one of the league’s best big men on the offensive side of the floor this season, and Damian Lillard has been forced to carry the load now that he’s missed some games with a back issue. Lillard is putting up over 21 points and nearly 6 assists per game this season and the first time All-Star has definitely stepped up when the Blazers have needed him this season. He’s hit clutch shot after clutch shot and he’s emerged as one of the most dynamic guards in the NBA in just his sophomore year.

John Wall had trouble guarding Isaiah Thomas on Tuesday night and he’ll certainly have a tough task in defending Lillard tonight. Lillard scored 25 points and dished out 8 assists in a loss against the Wizards earlier this season and he’ll be called upon even more now that Aldridge is out. Smaller guards have given Wall fits this season and Lillard is capable of scoring in bunches. Wall has to remain aggressive on both sides of the floor, as the team usually feeds off his energy. The outcome of the game will likely be determined by the point guard match up. It should be a fun one.

Notes:

  • Portland scores the most points and grabs the most rebounds in the NBA. They’re first in both categories–scoring and rebounding.
  • Nene and Aldridge will both be out tonight.
  • Despite having one of the league’s best offenses, the Trail Blazers struggle on the defensive side of the floor. They have a below average defensive rating (NBA.COM) and they allow over 103 points per game.

Prediction:

Even though the Trail Blazers have struggled recently, they’re still one of the best teams at home, losing just 9 games at the Moda Center this season. Damian Lillard, Nic Batum and Wes Matthews are all capable of scoring 20+ points on any given night and the Wizards typically struggle against good scoring teams.

With that said, John Wall and Bradley Beal are going to have great nights if they want to get another upset over the Blazers. Neither player played particularly well against the Kings on Tuesday, especially Beal, and they can’t afford another bad shooting night against Portland.

I think the Wizards will compete, but they’ll ultimately fall to Portland. The Trail Blazers are simply too good at home and Washington hasn’t been very good defensively since Nene went down with injury.

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