Wizards vs Blazers Observations
After a 2-1 record to begin their five game homestand, Washington walked into Sunday evening’s match-up with the 10-5 Blazers optimistic that they would come out of top. A big reason for that optimism was their improved defense in their two wins where they brought a winning effort and won the rebounding battle. That winning effort was nonexistent for much of Washington’s 119-109 loss to Portland, in fact, it was the same effort that has the Wizards in the big hole they are currently in being 5-11.
Portland jumped out on Washington with a 32-12 run on 7 of 9 shooting and truly wasn’t threatened again until late in the game. Their lethal backcourt of Damian Lillard (40 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assist) and CJ McCollum (25 points, 7 rebounds) set the tone and like true assassin, never let up, thoroughly outplaying John Wall (24 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assist) and Brad Beal (12 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assist). Now, with trade rumors (which is normal for losing teams with talented players) swirling, the heat is on the entire team.
Here are some observations from the game.
Dwight Howard Injured:
Howard left the game with gluteal soreness after aggravating the injury in the second quarter. It’s the same injury that forced him to miss all of training camp, preseason and the first seven games of the season. It couldn’t have come at a worst time with the Wizards reeling and Howard coming off a promising performance of 25 points and 17 rebounds in a loss to the Nets despite him still not being 100 percent healthy. Washington is one of the worst teams in the NBA rebounding even with Howard, so obviously not having him will be a big blow. As of today, Howard was listed as day to day.
Kelly Oubre Jr Impact:
While there hasn’t been much positive to talk about so far this season, one constant has been the elevated play of Kelly Oubre Jr. With Washington down 32-12 at the 3:53 mark, Oubre (19 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assist, 2 blocks) checked in and immediately made his presence felt by harassing Lillard, getting timely deflections by staying in the passing lanes, finding teammates for scores and slashing to the basket for dunks. With Oubre on the floor during that stretch, Washington finished the first quarter on a 13-0 run to make it a game again. Oubre’s energy, display of heart and winning effort stands out even more now due to a few of his teammates rarely showing the same traits. On two separate occasions, Portland’s seven foot center Jusuf Nurkic drove to dunk, Oubre went up and denied him. In the fourth quarter, Portland head coach Terry Stotts sat Blazers starters with them being up 91-70, Brooks getting nothing out of his starters, did the same. It was anything but over. Washington’s bench led by Oubre’s 10 points and 3 assist in the period, went on a 39-29 run, almost pulling off a big time comeback. It was such a close call that Stotts had no choice but to put Lillard and McCollum back in the game to make sure they walked out with the victory. Oubre is growing right before our eyes and becoming a leader quietly. It may be time to expand on his role if Washington is serious about winning games moving forward.