Washington Wizards: Impactful Ish Smith will be the X-factor vs. Portland

Washington Wizards and Russ faceoff against Damian Lillard and his Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
Washington Wizards and Russ faceoff against Damian Lillard and his Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /

Tonight, the Washington Wizards look to make it two wins on the bounce as the team hosts the Portland Trail Blazers and its dynamic guard, Damian Lillard. The history between Russ and Dame is noted, but we think Ish Smith will have a say in who wins tonight’s guard matchup

If you, like me, are still on a high from the Washington Wizards’ incredible (season-saving?) win against Brooklyn, then you can’t wait for tonight’s tipoff. Why? The Battle of the Guards, featuring our very own Brodie and Oakland’s own Damian Lillard. Since entering the Association, these two California-raised guards have delighted NBA fans. MVPs, series winners, triple-doubles – their combined accolades already certify them as all-time greats. And their individual matchups have been so must-see that media narratives falsely/erroneously/stupidly/detrimentally pushed it as beef.

False narratives are one of life’s biggest threats. Because as Dame tells it: 

Whatever you caption it, the fireworks the two let off when opposite each other are spectacular.

Tonight we expect more of the same, right? With Dame’s backcourt mate currently shelved, he’ll be tasked with scoring even more. That’s a challenge for Russell Westbrook and the Washington Wizards,  who will have to defend a guard that has been labeled Logo Lillard for more than just alliterative purposes. Equally, though, Dame will have his hands full defending a now-healthy Russell Westbrook. It should be a doozy.

But the unknown variable that I think will change the calculus of the matchup is Ish Smith. Unless the two coaches schemed to coordinate the guards’ rests to occur at the same time and for the same duration,  at some point in the game, Dame and Russ will both do battle against the opposing reserves. For the Wizards, that means Dame will have to face Ish Smith… And this is where the Wizards may win the matchup.

Fresh off a 13-point performance, where he recorded two steals, one “get-that-expletive-outta here” (read: Block), and 7 assists in only 24 minutes, I expect his minutes to increase. They have to, right? His game against Brooklyn is a major reason the Wizards won. By dint of his top-ten handles package, Ish was able to get into the thick of the defense to pry open passing and cutting lanes for Wizards to slip in. And when these portals opened, Ish zipped perfect passes through to players capable of scoring. By the time the game ended, Ish was a +24 during his 24 minutes on the court.

If Ish is able to be similarly effective on offense against Portland and its leaky defense, his impact will help Washington start a winning streak.  As for the defensive end, borne no doubt from being undersized, he flat out competes. Whether he gives up a bucket is of no import; he competes just as ruthlessly as Dame and Russ. So, I’m fully expecting his play, be it impactful or inimical, to be the X-factor. We’ll see.

Good luck, Ish.