PORTLAND, Ore. — John Wall’s sore left knee is a source of consternation for the Washington Wizards, who invade Moda Center on Tuesday night to face the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Trail Blazers aren’t going to pretend Wall’s absence won’t make a difference.
“I play against whoever’s out there,” said Portland point guard Damian Lillard, who would have been matched up against Wall. “I’m always up for a challenge. Everybody knows that. But I ain’t crazy. If John Wall’s not playing, I’m not going to be like, ‘Man, I’m mad. I wish he was playing.’ I’m not going to be fake mad about it.
“They’re down probably their best player. It’s an opportunity, and we need to take advantage of it.”
The Blazers have lucked out twice. Wall, who will miss his sixth straight game Tuesday night, left the Washington lineup after scoring 31 points and dishing 11 assists and playing 41 minutes in a 129-124 overtime loss to Charlotte on Nov. 22. The Wizards’ first opponent after that was Portland, which stole away with a 108-105 victory at Capital One Arena on Nov. 25.
Washington comes to Portland at 12-11 after a resounding 116-69 defeat Monday night at Utah. The Wizards’ point total matched the single-game low for any team in the NBA this season.
“(The Jazz) punched us and punched us again and punched us again,” said Scott Brooks, in his second season as Wizards coach. “Surprisingly, we didn’t fight back. One of the first times since I’ve been here that we didn’t play with fight.”
The Wizards were in a tailspin even before Wall departed. They have lost six of nine heading into the rematch with the Blazers.
The Wizards were encouraged, however, by the performance of backup guard Tomas Satoransky in a 109-91 romp past Detroit on Friday. The 6-foot-7 native of the Czech Republic scored a career-high 17 points on 5-for-6 shooting while running the offense for the second unit.
Satoransky was 2 of 2 from the 3-point arc, 5 of 5 at the foul line and collected four rebounds and four assists with no turnovers in a sterling 23-minute show.
“I won’t lie — it felt great,” Satoransky told said. “For the first time, I played with a lot of confidence. I had some opportunities to score some easy buckets.”
He followed that up with an eight-point effort Monday against the Jazz.
Portland (13-10) has significant improved its defense from a year ago, when its team defensive rating was 21st in the NBA. The Blazers are currently third. However, their offense has taken a step back.
They are still near the top in free-throw percentage (.815) and sixth in 3-point percentage (.372), but they are 22nd in offensive rating (102.9), tied for 26th in field-goal percentage (.440) and dead last in fastbreak points (4.3).
“Our offense has been inconsistent,” said Lillard, who ranks seventh in the NBA at 25.5 points per game. “We’re not scoring points in transition. In the half-court, sometimes it’s us getting opportunities and not making shots. Other times, it’s getting up against the (shot) clock and not executing well — not setting screens or not having the kind of pace we need to make teams have to work to guard us.”
The Blazers rank last in the NBA in assists per game at 18.1. That figure is down from the 21.1 assists they averaged last season.
“That’s a reflection of how our offense is struggling,” Lillard said. “We’re not shooting the ball as well, we’re not scoring as well, and so the assists are down.”