After losing two-straight games without their All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, the Portland Trail Blazers were able to grind out a win in his return against the Washington Wizards, 103-96. Aldridge led both teams in scoring with 26 points on 9-of-22 shooting, 8-of-8 from the free-throw line, and nine rebounds.
After suffering a torn ligament in his left thumb, Aldridge was set to have surgery and miss the next six to eight weeks. However, on Saturday afternoon Aldridge decided to put off surgery and play against the Wizards. It turned out to be a smart decision, as he was a big factor in pulling out this win.
Portland’s backcourt of Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews were deadly all night, especially from behind the arc. Lillard finished with 20 points on 5-of-13 shooting with seven assists. Matthews added 19 points on 7-of-19 shooting, 5-of-11 from the three-point line. When Portland was down 85-81 with 4:30 left in regulation, the backcourt of Lillard-Matthews went on their own 11-0 run thanks to a couple three-pointers by Matthews, and a wide open dagger by Lillard that put the Trail Blazers up, 92-85, with 2:48 left in the fourth quarter.
Wizards point guard John Wall was named an All-Star starter this week, and he played like it tonight. Wall scored 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting with nine assists. He scored his points in a variety of ways, most especially with the mid-range jumper that has become lethal. His backcourt mate Bradley Beal added 16 points on 7-of-15 shooting.
Paul Pierce was very productive tonight, as he scored 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including 3-of-4 from behind the arc. With those three-pointers, Pierce now has 2,000 career three-pointers made.
This game was very much in control for the Wizards, as they led 32-20 after the first quarter, including a buzzer-beater floater by Wall. After the first half, Washington was still up by 10 points. Portland stepped up their defensive intensity in the second half, and their bench was more productive than Washington’s. The Wizards still led by one going into the fourth, which makes it the second straight game Washington has lost a game when they led going into the fourth quarter.
There were plenty of areas where the Wizards were better than the Trail Blazers, but the two deciding factors were three-point shooting and free-throw shooting. Portland went 13-of-31 from three-point land and was clean from the charity stripe, 20-for-20. Washington was a notch below, going 5-of-15 from behind the arc and went 11-of-14 from the free-throw line. It was a very competitive game from both teams, but the Trail Blazers were able to knock down a couple more shots to protect home court.
The Trail Blazers head on the road to face the Brooklyn Nets on Monday at 7:30 PM EST. Washington remains on the West coast to face the Denver Nuggets tomorrow night at 8:00 PM EST.