PORTLAND, Ore. -- Maybe the Wizards should call it the Unsettled Score Tour. On Sunday, the Wizards finally won in Detroit, ending a seven-game losing streak there that dated back to 2007. Tonight, the Wizards will look to end a six-game slide in Portland that goes back to 2005.
The Wizards flew here from Detroit on Monday and went straight from the airplane to practice. Thats the reality of life in the NBAs condensed 66-game season. There is little time to waste, with a meeting against the Clippers looming Wednesday in Los Angeles.
The mood of the team was upbeat. The victory over the Pistons was built on determination. John Wall played through first-half mistakes and seemed to set the tone with a refuse-to-lose attitude in the second half. Everyone that played was involved and, while there were several sloppy moments, the teams fragile confidence never seemed to be shaken.
I think we are finding guys that are playing well together, Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. You are seeing an understanding on the floor of positions and extra passes are starting to be made. We have to continue to play at our pace and make good decisions in the transition game.
Even with seven turnovers against the Pistons, Wall in general has been getting better at eliminating those possessions when he gets going too fast. There is a real chemistry developing between Wall and rookie Jan Vesely. When Wall gets out in the open court, Vesely is able to run with him. In the halfcourt, Wall and Vesely combined effectively on pick-and-roll situations against the Pistons.
With 10 points and eight rebounds Sunday night, Vesely had his best game as a pro, according to Wittman. In addition to combining with Wall, Vesely has a knack for deflections and when not grabbing rebounds at least keeping the ball alive. On Sunday in pursuit of a loose ball, Vesely executed a head-first slide that would have made Pete Rose proud. (For you younger readers, do a video search for a Rose slide.)
The Wizards will need everyone involved to navigate through this next week. Rashard Lewis mentioned wanting to get his sore right knee ready for this road trip when he missed three home games last week. Lewis looked rested Sunday, and his presence and points helped create valuable space on offense for Wall and the Wizards to work.
JaVale McGee is coming off back-to back games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds for the first time this season. McGee had more points and rebounds against Miami (24 points and 13 rebounds), but was more under control against Detroit (22 points 11 rebounds). Like Wittman believes Wall is getting better at changing speeds, he believes McGee is reducing the number of bad shots taken with each game.
I think he has been active and protecting the goal, Wittman said of McGee. That creates enthusiasm for him. When he can get up and down the floor and get easy baskets, that energizes him. We have to keep that going.
The battle of the boards will be a challenge tonight for the Wizards. The Trail Blazers have an impressive frontcourt with forwards Gerald Wallace and LaMarcus Aldridge, and Marcus Camby at center. The Trail Blazers' commitment to rebounding was perhaps best underscored when Camby recently became the first player in team history to grab 20 rebounds in a game without scoring a point.