Saturday December 4, 2010 3:08 p.m.
By Frank Hanrahan
After giving up 127 points in that embarassing loss at Toronto on Wednesday night, Wizards coach Flip Saunders put his team through the defensive paces leading up to the Portland game and it paid off in the 83-79 win over the Blazers on Friday night at Verizon Center. "We had two tough practices just working on defense and our offense kind of showed it but if you want to be good in this league you are going to have to learn how to play defense so that right now is our point of emphasis," said Saunders after the win over Portland.
Down 46-34 at halftime to the Blazers, the Wizards stepped up their defense in the third quarter holding Portland to a staggering 10 points as the Wizards came back and took control of the game. "With about four minutes left in the quarter they had like 4 or 5 points so we got ourselves back in with good pressure defense and we rebounded pretty well at that time," Saunders said.
The Blazers shot a paltry 33 percent from the field for the game and star guard Brandon Roy was held to just 18 points on 9-21 shooting with Wizards Kirk Hinrich defending Roy most of the night. "He matched up and fought Roy about as good as one guy can fight him," Saunders said about his veteran guard Hinrich.
Wizards rookie John Wall returned to the starting lineup and despite just shooting 3-13 from the field for only 10 points he provided defensive pressure on the Blazers guards specifically in the third quarter disrupting them from getting into their offensive sets. "It starts from my position as a point guard I got to pressure the ball and make the job tougher on the opposing point guard," Wall said. Andre Miller was the Blazers point man and he shot just 2-12 with just 3 assists so he surely did struggle. "The key was coming out in the third quarter and play great defense and we did that," said Wall.
The Wizards now head west to face stealth offenses in Phoenix and Los Angeles but perhaps with this new focus on defense the Wizards can at least contain them. "Hopefully this win over Portland can give us a little bit of confidence but I don't think we'll hold Phoenix to 79 points the way they shoot it and play but we will have a challenge with Phoenix and the Lakers but the players should look forward to it," Saunders said.
The Wizards would also like to get their first road win, 0-9 so far away from Verizon Center. "On the road we got to stick more together and find a way to win," Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas said. "We're going to get a win we just got to keep digging."