The Portland Trail Blazers started a four-game road trip off with a 100-90 loss to the Washington Wizards Monday night at the Verizon Center.
Portland has now lost their last four road games.
“We played great on the road early in the season,” said Damian Lillard. “We played great at home also, but now teams have done their scouting, they’re playing us a little bit harder because of our success so far. We’ve just got to stick with it. We’ve got confidence in ourselves and we know what makes us successful. We’ve just got to stay with it and understand that rough patches are a part of this league.”
Things started out well enough for the road team. Even though they finished the first quarter trailing 32-29, they shot 62 percent from the field, had nine assists on 13 made baskets, scored 16 points in the paint and turned the ball over just three times.
It was more of the same in the second quarter, with both teams answering opponent runs with runs of their own. Portland went on a 12-0 run to take a 48-43 lead with 4:24 to play in the first half, the Wizards countered with a 9-0 run to end the half and take a 56-55 lead into the halftime intermission. Portland shot 60 percent in the quarter and outrebounded the Wizards 13-6.
But the third quarter would once again be Portland’s undoing, as was the case in recent losses to the Grizzlies and Wizards.
“It was two different halves,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Both teams had the offensive going in the first half. Second half, defenses tightened up. Our turnovers in the third quarter obviously hurt us, gave them momentum.”
The Trail Blazers shot just 35 percent and turned the ball over seven times in the third after doing a nice job in both categories in the first half.
“We didn’t make a lot of shots in the second half and they did a great job offensively getting to things they wanted to get to,” said Lillard. “But I think it came down to us not making shots. When you aren’t having a great night defensively you’ve got to find a way to at least make shots. When you are making shots, you’ve got to find a way to get it done defensively, especially on the road.”
Missing shots alone might not have been enough to sink the Trail Blazers, but the Wizards turning the ball over just once in the third while grabbing four offensive rebounds, all of which were converted to points, was too much to overcome. The Trail Blazers would shoot 35 percent in the third quarter and trailed 82-69, all but sealing their fate on the road.
“We’re getting good looks, we just haven’t been shooting the ball as well as we were early in the season,” said Lillard. “We’re confident that we’ll get back to it but in those third quarters before we were coming out hot and making shots. Now we’re missing some shots and the other teams are making shots, so that makes it tougher, especially when, like tonight, we had all those turnovers and they turned it over six times. That makes everything that much harder.”
Portland would eventually cut the lead to six with 1:12 to play, but never really threatened the Wizards, who turned 16 turnovers into 17 points.
“We aren’t a team that forces a lot of turnovers to begin with, but if they’re going to have six turnovers when we can’t turn it over as many times as we did,” said Lillard. “That really allowed them to get out and get some fastbreak points, kind of get themselves energized and get the crowd into it. When they have six turnovers we can’t have however many we had.”
The Trail Blazers were led by Lillard, who shot eight of 19 from the field to finish with 25 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
LaMarcus Aldridge handed out a season-high six assists to go along with 20 points and ten rebounds.
Nicolas Batum had 18 points, four rebounds and three assists in the losing effort, but turned the ball over a game-high five times. Robin Lopez finished one rebound short of a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds in 35 minutes.
The Wizards were led by John Wall with 22 points, five assists and five rebounds. Trevor Ariza went four of seven from the three-point line and finished with 20 points in 39 minutes.
Washington got a boost off the bench from Kevin Seraphin, who scored 19 points on 10 shots in just 23 minutes.
“The x-factor was Seraphin,” said Stotts. “Seraphin had a terrific game. He did a little bit of everything; he made jump shots, he made postups, he drew fouls. That kind of put us in a bind for a while.”
Seraphin’s scoring outburst was particularly tough to overcome with Portland’s bench scoring just six points combined on three of 14 shooting.
“The bench, they need to take advantage of the opportunities that are there, but it’s a team thing,” said Stotts. When their shots are there, hopefully they’ll contribute. We don’t have go-to guys coming off the bench, they’ve got to just take advantage of the opportunities while they’re there. ”
The Blazers are now 5-5 in their last ten games, though they still sit in third place in the Western Conference standing.
“It’s been up and down,” said Aldridge. “We’ve definitely got to be more consistent offensively and defensively. I thought tonight we had moments where we were good on both sides of the ball, and then we had moments where we just played bad.”
Next up, the Trail Blazers have a day off before facing the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:30 PM.