For a second straight game Saturday, the Washington Wizards played firm defense — for at least three quarters.
The Wizards were outscored 33-13 the last 8:53 of the fourth quarter as the Portland Trail Blazers stormed back from 17 points down to defeat Washington, 108-105, at Capital One Arena in northwest D.C.
“We just couldn’t get stops,” said Wizards head coach Scott Brooks. “[Portland guard CJ] McCollum was feeling comfortable. Their main guns were attacking. We put them on the free throw line way too much in the fourth quarter.”
The team’s premier backcourt of McCollum and Damian Lillard scored a combined 22 points in the fourth quarter. Lillard, who came into Saturday’s game ranked eighth in the NBA in scoring at 25 points per contest, led all scorers with 29 points and attempted 10 free throws.
The Trail Blazers (12-8) went 12 of 16 at the free throw line in the final stanza, after shooting just six free throws up to that point.
A more daunting stat: Portland, normally inept at interior scoring, doubled up the Wizards with 48 points in the paint. The Trail Blazers rank near the bottom of the league in that category.
The loss overshadowed a sparkling performance by Otto Porter Jr., who recorded a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds, along with three steals.
Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr., who scored 13 points off the bench, expressed both optimism and frustration about the recent defensive lapses.
“Start defending, bruh,” Oubre said when asked about the team’s defensive breakdowns. “Everybody’s together. We [have] to move on. It’s in the past. We just have to worry about getting better tomorrow.”
In Charlotte on Wednesday, the Wizards (10-9) had a 102-93 with less than seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, but the Hornets eventually won the game after outscoring Washington 36-22 in the final 11½ minutes of the fourth and overtime.
Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall played in that game, but missed Saturday’s contest and will be out for at least two weeks with an inflamed knee.
“We just really have to find ways to lock in and play for each other,” Porter said. “You got to give [Portland] credit. They were knocking down shots. Their two main scorers got going in that fourth quarter.”
The Wizards will play in back-to-back games on the road Tuesday and Wednesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves (11-8) and Philadelphia 76ers (11-7), respectively. Seven of Washington’s next eight games will be on the road, including the team’s second West Coast trip of the season.