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Terps, Hoyas, and Wizards

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The Teams: Washington Wizards (0-12) vs Portland Trail Blazers (6-8)

The Time: 7 PM

The Place: Verizon Center, Washington D.C.

The History: The overall series nod goes to the Trail Blazers, who have a slim 52-49 advantage in the win column.

Here we go again. The Washington Wizards look to end their season-long losing streak in the final game of their three-game home stand against the Blazers. Coming off a brutal 118-92 drubbing by the San Antonio Spurs, Washington has had over 24 hours to brood and get over a loss that typified the season as a whole. Well, the Wizards are going to need some luck to break through that win/loss barrier tonight, and considering how little they have had of it this season, tonight feels like they may catch a break.

The Blazers are on a two game losing streak, having dropped road games to the Brooklyn Nets and the equally-as-woeful-as-the-Wizards Detroit Pistons. They have been playing poor defense and are relying entirely too heavily on All-Star forward/center LaMarcus Aldridge to win games. As a result, they have lost three of their last four. Their rookie phenom Damian Lillard has also had his fair share of struggles shooting the ball as well, leading to the Blazers being under .500 for the first time this season. So will the Wizards get a win tonight?

Why you should watch: Damian Lillard is an absolute animal

Damian Lillard, the guy the Wizards passed up on with the third pick in the draft, was not expected to be this good, this soon. Averaging 19 points, 6 assists, and shooting 40% from long range isn’t something you would expect from a rookie point guard, but here we are. Lillard has set the league on fire and is a major reason why the Blazers have any wins at all. When he’s on, they are a formidable Western Conference team with a deadly in and out game. Without him, they are a poor shooting unit that has no real scoring options outside of LaMarcus Aldridge.

Lillard, as I said before, has had some issues with knocking down shots over the last two games. He’s only hit eight of his last 30 shots, and unsurprisingly the Blazers have lost both matches. He hasn’t been particularly good on the road this season, shooting 41% from the field (as opposed to his 47% mark at home), which bodes well for the Wizards. Slowing him down will be a difficult task given how well he excels at the pick-and-roll offense, but it isn’t impossible. Brandon Knight of the Detroit Pistons gave him work, and on the defensive end he hasn’t shown that he is elite by any stretch.

Take some time out of your night to watch him go to work, because you’ll be amazed at how talented he is.

Keys to the game/Storylines

1.) Bradley Beal’s shooting has to improve

Bradley Beal is frustrating a lot of fans (myself included) with his lack of aggressiveness on the offensive end of things. Far too often, he settles for midrange jumpers and three point shots instead of being as aggressive as his natural ability say he should be. For rookie shooters, the midrange jumper is a very, very common mistake. In college, they were able to get that kind of shot off with ease, and for whatever reason believe that they made a lot of them when in reality the midrange jumper is a veteran’s move.

Young players should be aggressive going to the hoop and trying to draw fouls, neither of which Beal is doing. Given that he’s shooting 32% from the floor on the season and hitting almost 90% of his free throws, statistically he should be begging to get to the line. The Wizards need him to be aggressive tonight and make some easy shots in order to get out of this funk that he’s been in.

2.) Stopping LaMarcus Aldridge

Part of the reason why the Blazers lost their game against Brooklyn was because Aldridge wasn’t playing due to a sore back. His numbers are down across the board from last year, but barely. He’s still averaging 20 points and 8 rebounds a game, which will suit the Blazers just fine. On his return against Detroit he had 32 points and 10 rebounds, which signals that he should be just fine against Washington. Okafor is going to have to play some tough nosed defense in order to contain Aldridge this game, other wise this game will get cracked open quickly.

Prediction: Wizards match up somewhat adequately with the Blazers, and thus take a homer’s victory against a team on a cold streak.

Wizards win 99-97

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