But now schedule gets 'brutal' for Portland
The easy part of the Trail Blazer regular-season schedule is over.
And make no mistake about it, Portland's 111-76 shellacking of Washington Tuesday night at the Rose Garden was Easy, with a capital 'E.'
The Blazers 'did whatever they wanted,' Washington point guard John Wall said after Portland handed the Wizards (17-52) their 32nd loss in 33 road games this season.
'It was like we weren't even out there,' said the Wizard rookie, who had nine points and seven assists but made only 3 of 12 shots and had four turnovers. 'Nobody played good, nobody competed - none of us. When they missed a shot, they got a put-back. They had a dunk-fest on us, a block party, making threes ... they got whatever they wanted.'
That pretty much sums it up. Portland (41-30) dominated virtually every statistical category, shooting .500 while holding Washington to .371 marksmanship, ruling the rebound battle 45-32, coming up with a season-high 14 steals and turning 27 Wizard turnovers (a Wizard season high and a Blazers' opponent season high) into 33 points.
There's more. Portland held a huge advantage in points in the paint (62-40), second-chance points (23-11) and fast-break points (19-10) and came witinh two points of its season high for scoring.
'We took care of business,' said Coach Nate McMillan, whose Blazers now launch into difficult final 11 regular-season games against nine potential playoff teams, beginning Friday at home against San Antonio.
'It's brutal,' said Portland point guard Andre Miller, who made both of his field-goal attempts Tuesday night and contributed four points, a game-high 11 assists and five rebounds with no turnovers in 25 minutes. 'But it's a chance for us to get a rhythm, get some confidence against some of these teams and send a message.'
Portland's front line - center LaMarcus Aldridge with forwards Gerald Wallace and Nicolas Batum - gave its Washington counterparts a pounding, outscoring them 72-24 and outrebounding them 26-14.
'We want to play from the inside out,' McMillan said. 'Tonight we did a better job of going to the post, playing off of LaMarcus and spacing our guys. Wallace was crashing the boards and diving to the basket.'
Wallace led the way with 28 points on 10-for-14 shooting and filled up the stat sheet with eight rebounds, four steals and three assists.
'They call him 'Crash' for a reason,' Aldridge said. 'I've seen it first-hand. He runs into people all the time. He gets to the line and he finishes well. He played big for us tonight.'
'I'm getting more comfortable with the guys out on the court, and they're getting more comfortable with me,' said Wallace, who came to Portland via a Feb. 23 with Charlotte. 'We're getting out and running. We scored in transition off turnovers, got to the basket. If we do that, it makes it a whole lot easier for everybody.'
Batum had his second straight outstanding game with 22 points on 9-for-15 shooting, grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds and had three steals and three assists in 40 minutes.
Aldridge was unstoppable early, knocking down 7 of 12 shots from the field (the Wizards chose not to offer double-team help) and 8 of 8 from the line while scoring 22 points in the first half. With Portland comfortably ahead, Aldridge didn't take another shot, playing the entire third quarter and resting the fourth.
'That's fine for me,' Aldridge said. 'As long as we win and I get the whole fourth quarter to rest, I'm down with that. I don't need to take any shots.'
Washington stayed around for awhile. The Wizards led 16-12 midway through the first quarter before the Blazers went on a 10-0 run. Portland led 35-29 after one quarter and 37-34 early in the second period, but the Blazers took charge in running out to a 62-45 halftime advantage.
'We took care of business,' McMillan said. 'They scored 20 points in the paint in the first quarter, so we went to zone, which slowed them down a little bit by controlling their penetration.'
The Wizards - with three rookie starters and six rookies on Tuesday's 12-man active roster - are used to losing away from home, but Coach Flip Saunders had some kind words for the Blazers.
'They just came,' Saunders said. 'Their physicality ... they got into us. It was a situation where you saw a very young team just get taken out, get into quicksand and just keep sinking.'
NOTES - The Wizards were missing four injured veterans - forwards Rashard Lewis and Andray Blache and guards Josh Howard and Nick Young - who combine to average 53 points a game. ... Washington's Javale McGee made one of the great defensive plays you'll ever see. Portland's Wesley Matthews was going in for a second-quarter dunk, but McGee caught him in mid-air and fleeced him of the ball one-handed. 'Give me my arm back,' Matthews joked afterward. Said Aldridge: 'It went from being a top-10 dunk (on ESPN's SportsCenter) to a top-10 block.' ... The Blazers are in sixth place in the Western Conference, a game behind fifth-place Denver (42-29). 'We can finish at No. 8, we can be at No. 5, you never know,' Miller said. ... Portland is 25-10 at home, including 13-1 against teams currently below .500. ... It was Batum's fifth double-double of the season. ... It was the most points Wallace has scored as a Blazer. ... Brandon Roy had five rebounds and three assists but scored only one point on 0-for-6 shooting in 20 minutes off the bench. ... Rookie center Chris Johnson looked good in his 16 minutes for the Blazers, making a pair of dunks, grabbing three rebounds, blocking three shots and scoring seven points ... .Marcus Camby sat out the game with a sprained ankle. The veteran center, who celebrated his 37th birthday Tuesday, said he hopes to play Friday against the Spurs.