PORTLAND — Portland Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews blew past John Wall at the three-point line, darted right at the basket and elevated for what he thought would be an easy slam dunk. But in one motion, JaVale McGee swooped in for a ridiculous block that could’ve also been recorded as a steal because McGee simply snatched the ball out of Matthews’ hands and cupped it at his hip.
“I jumped high because I know he has a tendency to dunk on people. I just went up there and tried to give it as much as I could,” McGee explained. “It stuck in my hand and I just grabbed it.”
McGee landed and stared down Matthews following an impressive rejection that will surely get replayed on highlight shows and in endless loops on the Internet. But unfortunately for the Washington Wizards, the block represented a rare defensive stance on a night when they otherwise let the Trail Blazers run and dunk all over them during a 111-76 demolition on Tuesday at Rose Garden.
“It was like we wasn’t even out there,” Wall said. “It was like they was in a dummy offense. Nobody played good, nobody competed. None of us. They had a dunkfest on us, a block party, making threes, getting whatever they wanted.”
The Wizards (17-52) opened their longest road trip of the season with a forgettable performance in which they repeatedly turned the ball over and watched the Trail Blazers run fast breaks, get alley-oop dunks and drive down the lane for uncontested layups and slams. They lost in Portland for the sixth straight time and dropped to 1-32 away from Verizon Center this season.
Coming off a dramatic comeback victory over the New Jersey Nets on Sunday, Coach Flip Saunders said he hoped that the team had found a formula that could at least make it competitive the rest of the season.
“We have to play at a high level, not turn the ball over, and make some shots and rebound the basketball and defend,” Saunders said before the game.
The Wizards did the opposite on Tuesday, committing a season-high 27 turnovers, shooting 37.1 percent from the floor, getting outrebounded 45-32 and allowing Portland to shoot 50 percent from the floor. They matched their season-low in scoring as well.
“It’s like we forgot what we did against New Jersey. Now granted, this is a lot better team than New Jersey, but still that’s the formula for success,” Saunders said. “I was disappointed we didn’t respond.”
The Trail Blazers’ starting frontcourt of Gerald Wallace, Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge combined to outscore the Wizards’ starting front line of McGee, Yi Jianlian and Trevor Booker, 72-24. Wallace scored a game-high 28 points and Aldridge had 22 for Portland (41-30) and both players cheered and giggled on the sideline as they sat for the entire fourth quarter.
“It wasn’t that we lost, it’s how we lost. Let them go down the middle, score. It was tough,” Jordan Crawford said after scoring a team-high 12 points. “I never went out like that.”
Crawford had averaged 20.5 points in his previous six games, but he struggled mightily as he missed 12 of his 15 field goal attempts and led the team with six turnovers.
“My turnovers really hurt the team in the first half. Dug a hole, couldn’t get out of it,” Crawford said.
Wall also had a rough outing, as he followed his 26-point performance in Sunday’s win over New Jersey by scoring just nine points with seven assists and four turnovers. He also picked up a technical foul in the first period when he complained after getting called for an offensive foul.
Kevin Seraphin was called on early against the Trail Blazers after McGee picked up two fouls in the first two minutes, and scored 10 of the Wizards' first 20 points. But he was shut out the rest of the game and had more fouls (five) than rebounds (three).
The Wizards trailed 37-34 when Cartier Martin made a three-pointer from the corner with 10 minutes 2 seconds left in the second period, but they were outscored 60-25 over the next 25 minutes as their passes got sloppier and their defense lazier.
With nearly eight minutes left in the third period, Jianlian tried to back down Batum but stumbled and fell as Crawford attempted an entry pass. Wallace scooped up the losse ball and threw it ahead to Andre Miller for an easy layup.
Wall missed a jumper on the next possession, and Wallace grabbed the rebound, driving the length the floor as no player in a Wizards’ uniform attempted to stop him. After Wallace scored, Saunders quickly called a 20-second timeout and shouted at his players in the huddle. Whatever his message was it didn't stick, because on the Wizards' next defensive possession, they were caught sleeping again as Wallace snuck behind Booker for an uncontested layup. Saunders’ head fell into his hand.
“They were outplaying us. Nothing was working for us,” McGee said, “but it’s not tough. We only can go up from here. We’ve got to stay positive. We’ve got another game” on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Clippers.