PORTLAND, Ore. – Marcin Gortat will miss his first game of the season with a lower back strain as the Wizards attempt to sweep season series against Portland for the second straight year. Kevin Seraphin will get his first start of the season.
Gortat had been fighting through soreness in his back for a while but began feeling more discomfort while warming up before the game. He walked off the court grimacing and holding his back.
The Wizards (35-32) were looking to feature Gortat inside with Portland all-star LaMarcus Aldridge missing his fourth straight game because of a back contusion. The Trail Blazers have gone 2-2 without Aldridge, losing to playoff contenders San Antonio and Golden State.
“They are still a very high scoring team,” Randy Wittman said before the game, before Gortat was a late scratch. “Obviously, when you’re missing a guy like LaMarcus, it hurts you a little bit. I think they still scored  the last time out. It’s a very potent offensive team and they’ve had guys step up in his absence.”
Gortat and John Wall had been the only Wizards to play in every game this season, with Gortat starting the previous 66 games. With Nene missing the previous 11 games with a strained left knee ligament, Gortat had elevated his game, averaging 15.8 points and 11.2 rebounds. Gortat had a career-high 31 points in a road win over Toronto.
Seraphin has only appeared in one game since returning from a sore right knee that cost him seven games. He hasn’t started since April 17, the final game of last season. The Wizards will also lean on veteran reserve Drew Gooden, who has scored 39 points in the past two games.
“He’s been a big plus for us,” Wittman said of Gooden. “Signing a guy to a 10-day that hadn’t played all year, comes in and has done a really nice job. So it’s helped, no question. He’s been good.”
Washington will also possibly feature some small lineups with Chris Singleton at power forward. When asked if going small was the best way to compete with the Aldrige-less Blazers, Wittman replied, “If you win it is. We like to play inside out. We’ll continue to do that. Sometimes when you get away from who you are, it poses more problems looking at who you’re going against. We’re a team that still throws the ball inside, but it’s not something we do every time down the floor.”
(TV: Comcast SportsNet. Radio: WJFK-106.7 MF, WFED-1500 AM).
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