PORTLAND – The Portland Trail Blazers moved to 45-24 on the season and 26-9 at home with a 116-103 victory versus the Washington Wizards Thursday night at the Moda Center.
Portland is now 21-4 against the Eastern Conference this season, the best mark of any Western Conference team. The win also broke Portland’s three-game losing streak to the Wizards dating back to the 2011-12 season.
The Trail Blazers used a 19-2 run spanning from the 1:37 mark in the second quarter to the 10:02 mark in the third quarter to take the lead, one they would not relinquish the rest of the game.
“The ball was moving,” said Wesley Matthews. “It was a lot of fun to be out there. That’s how we play. That’s how we get on a roll. That’s how we got to be one of the hottest teams, because the ball was flying and we caused a problem either in pick and roll or in isolation situations where two are looking at one and we kick the ball out and we move it and the ball finds energy. We were all moving tonight.”
The ball moved particularly well in the third, with Portland tallying 10 assists on 13 made shots in the quarter. That ball movement yielded great looks from three and the Trail Blazers responded by shooting 62 percent from the field while going 6 of 11 from beyond the arc in the third.
“Make shots – there really wasn’t much to it other than I thought the ball found our shooters and they shot it with confidence,” said Stotts of his team’s third quarter production. “It wasn’t necessarily anything that we ran. I just felt like shooters were shooting with confidence. The thing that I’m pleased about is that our spacing lineup is kind of getting a rhythm, whether Mo (Williams) is in the game or Mo is not in the game. It’s kind of working the way it should as far as opening up the court and opening up three point opportunities and we’re still able to defend and rebound with that group.”
While the Trail Blazers broke the game open in the third, they were only in that position thanks to coming out with much better energy early in the game. Portland’s first quarter was downright stellar compared to their performance Tuesday night against the Bucks. The Wizards, led by 13 points from All-Star point guard John Wall, had a 28-23 lead after the first 12 minutes of the game, but Portland turned the ball over just twice and shot 40 percent from the field, both which were vast improvements from the game before.
“I was really pleased with the way we played,” said Stotts. “The first quarter was a little slow, but offensively, we were really moving the ball. There was a nice rhythm to it.”
Portland got early production from Dorell Wright, who started in place of LaMarcus Aldridge (lower back contusion) for the fourth-consecutive game. After going 0 of 8 Tuesday against the Bucks, Wright hit 3 of 5 shots in the first for seven points while also pulling down five rebounds in the first. Wright would finish the game with 15 points on 6 of 11 shooting from the field, 3 of 6 shooting from three and seven rebounds.
“It was all mental,” said Wright of his improvement from his previous performance. “I’m a shooter. I’ve been doing it for a while now and I understand what I need to do as far as getting prepared for the next game. I just had a short memory and tried to make my shots today.”
With shots falling, all the Trail Blazers needed to do in the second half was lock down defensively to come away with the victory. They did just that, holding the Wizards to 32 percent shooting in the third while forcing four turnovers.
“We were more ready to start the second half,” said Nicolas Batum, who pulled down nine rebounds in the third. “More intensity and more energy to start the second half. We got stops, we started running and we got more rhythm. When we got in a rhythm, we started making shots. So we started on defense and then we got open shots. Damian got some good assists and Wes made shots. Very good second half tonight.”
Batum ended the night with 12 points, 14 rebounds and five assists in 34 minutes.
Portland was led by Matthews, who matched a season-high with 28 points on 8 of 16 shooting from the field and 4 of 9 shooting from three.
Lillard finished with a double-double of 23 points and 10 assists while turning the ball over just once in 35 minutes.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Lillard. “We did a great job of moving the ball. Guys were flying around on the defensive end, tipping balls, and that allowed us to get out in transition. I think we just made the right plays. If there was an open guy, we made that pass. Some guys even had wide open shots and passed it up with the defender running at him to get the next guy a better shot. When you have that, that’s when you have a special situation. That’s what makes our team special, like we were at the beginning of the season. It’s exciting to see that we’re getting back to that.”
With four three-pointers in Thursday’s game, Lillard broke his own franchise record for three-pointers made in a season. He now has 186 threes this year with 13 games remaining in the regular season.
Next up, the Trail Blazers hit the road for their second five-game road trip of March with a game against the Bobcats in Charlotte on Saturday.
“We didn’t fare as well as we wanted to on the last road trip, to put it nicely, politely,” said Matthews. “So we know what we’ve got to do. We’ve got a tough stretch, teams that we’ve taken care of before. We’ve got to do it. We’ve got to show up to play and we’ve got to play with urgency like every game is our last.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 4 PM.