Final Score: Wizards 125, Trailblazers 124 (OT)
- Kelly Oubre Jr. played what was not only his best game of the (young) season, but in recent memory. The third-year man out of Kansas produced in all aspects this evening. With Ian Mahimi leaving the game early with back spasms, the Wizards came out of halftime fully committing to the small ball game. This meant bringing Oubre Jr. into the starting lineup and ramping up his minutes, playing a total of 39 including overtime. He posted 22 points (9/13 from the field) but his hustle and defensive presence brought a much-needed intensity to this Washington team. On top of all that, Oubre hit a smooth three pointer midway through overtime to keep momentum on the Wizards’ side.
- While the first win was one to remember for the Wizards, some of the issues throughout were not. With Dwight Howard not making the five-game west coast trip, the pressure has been on Mahimi to both produce and stay out of early foul trouble. Both those expectations quickly evaporated as the center collected two fouls in four minutes to open up the game, followed by him leaving thereafter with a back injury, and not returning. In the two previous games, this would mean more time for Jason Smith in the center role. But with the Trail Blazers playing hard inside, Smith’s lack of defensive abilities had a role with the Wizards going small ball in the second half with Jeff Green (who also had a great game off the bench) and Markieff Morris handling center duties. The offensive rebounds continued to be an issue throughout but seemed to be better handled in the second half. Washington needs to find answers whether from Mahimi himself, the small-ball offense, or even third-string center Thomas Bryant.
- Bradley Beal and Markieff Morris both had fantastic games tonight. Beal had his best game of the season last year at Portland, dropping 51 points and looked to follow that up with a strong performance this year. He did just that, dropping 25 points (including 5 three pointers), 8 rebounds and 7 assists. Something that may not be noticed by many is that as the Wizards turned to the small-ball lineup, Beal went quiet for a majority of the second half- but found himself grabbing rebounds when it mattered most. Of course, most importantly, Bradley Beal hit a game tying three point shot with 6 seconds left in regulation to send it to overtime, and rightfully that is probably how his night will be remembered. Markieff Morris hit a career high 6 threes, with 4 coming either late in the 4th quarter or overtime. His threes came at crucial times for the Wizards as well and was a major key in the team securing this win.
Play of the Game: With 32 seconds left in OT, and the Blazers within two, John Wall took the ball down the court. Looking to end the game and leave Portland without much of a chance, John Wall pulled off an incredible midrange shot with 10.2 seconds left- leaving many wondering, “did he call glass?”
Portland Trail Blazers:
- Big-men Al-Farouq Aminu and Jusuf Nurkic both had themselves great games in the paint, taking advantage of the Wizards going with smaller lineups. The lack of a true center for Washington left many opportunities down low that these two made the best of. Aminu, with 16 points and 15 rebounds, stressed the Wizards’ defense as he also forced them to acknowledge his presence beyond the arc with three makes on five attempts. Nurkic posted 22 points and 18 rebounds, bullying Washington down low with his physicality and presenting his team with second chance opportunities, as half of his rebounds were offensive boards. The Blazers needed a big game from their front court and they certainly delivered this evening.
- Nik Stauskas’ huge game was a pleasant surprise for Portland. They know the spark he can bring off the bench, but his physical play and well-timed threes helped carry an offense that for the most part, struggled from deep. He also managed to grab eight rebounds and three assists in a season-high thirty minutes. On top of his Play of The Game, the shooting guard assisted on the McCollum three near the end of OT that could have been a game changing play. Stauskas provided great energy and scoring off the bench for this Trail Blazers team.
- While the back-court did eventually show up for Portland, this game may have been decided earlier and possibly even in a different direction had that been earlier. While their two stars finally turned it on when it mattered most, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum still finished a combined 12-46 shooting on the evening. Had either of them started hitting shots sometime before, there may not have been a need for overtime. With that being said, the two played incredible late. The two were responsible for 11 of the 13 points scored in overtime. One play that could be a debatable decision, however- Damian Lillard driving to the basket and attempting a heavily contested layup with the team only needing one point to tie. It could be argued that he should have went for the smarter play and attempted to create more contact to get a foul call. At the same time though, the point guard had to race across the court to even give them a chance and did seem at one point he had a good lane to the basket. Ultimately, Portland having no timeouts really hurt their options in those closing seconds of overtime.
Play of the Game: With the game tied at 108 and nearing the end of regulation, the Trail Blazers won a jump ball and were looking to put themselves ahead. Damian Lillard found Nik Stauskas in the corner for a crazy three point shot that left 13 seconds on the clock and the Wizards looking for answers. (It was very close between this one and the CJ McCollum shot with a few seconds left in overtime, but that one shouldn’t have been as impactful had Wall made his free throws, so I went with this one.)