Hart scores 44 as Trail Blazers top Wizards, end 6-game skid
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Josh Hart scored a career-high 44 points, helping the Portland Trail Blazers end a six-game skid with a 127-118 victory over the Washington Wizards on Saturday night.
Hart also grabbed eight rebounds and had six assists in Portland’s first win since the All-Star break.
“I made some tweaks to my jump shot before the game, so I came into this game with a little more confidence,” Hart said. “I definitely wish I had gotten the 50. I don’t know when I’m going to have another night like this. So next time I’ll have to tell Trendon (Watford) to pass me the ball a little more.”
Hart wasn’t the only Trail Blazers player to have a career night as teammates Watford (27 points) and Drew Eubanks (20) each set personal bests.
“I’m blessed, I’m happy I got the 44. I got the Barack Obama,” Hart said. “I felt a little bit like Dame (Lillard), except I didn’t hit the right side-step 3.”
Multiple Blazers players believed Friday’s practice was instrumental in snapping their losing streak.
“We had a short and sweet practice,” Eubanks said. “It was a 30-minute practice, but it was one of those ‘man-up’ practices where we called our own fouls and I think that fueled our competitiveness tonight.”
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 26 points and Kyle Kuzma added 22 for the Wizards, who pulled their leading scorers with 2:49 remaining and the game out of reach. That came a day after a 122-109 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
“You can’t worry about the schedule,” Washington coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “We’ve seen it back-to-back nights, the defensive side of the ball has not been there. We can’t use it as an excuse. They were the more aggressive team and we didn’t take away any of the strengths that we talked about. And we paid the price for that.”
With a dunk midway through the third quarter, Hart surpassed his previous career best of 30 points. Things only got more impressive from there, highlighted by a four-point play with 6:49 remaining.
After that, Portland’s fans began doing “the wave” and showered Hart with faint chants of “M-V-P!” He was subbed out to a curtain call with 1:27 to go.
For Washington, hot 3-point shooting (14 for 34, 41%) was not enough to avoid a third straight loss. The defeat pushed the Wizards further away from the 10th and final play-in spot in the Eastern Conference.
While Portland did not make a 3 until Hart’s jumper with 5:49 left in the first quarter, the difference in 3-point shooting (11 for 30, 37%) didn’t matter.
The only first-round draft pick in Portland’s starting lineup on Saturday night, Hart scored his first 11 points in the span of 1:39.
Wizards: Washington has had a tough start to their current road trip, dropping games in Los Angeles against the Clippers and Lakers. However, first-year coach Wes Unseld Jr. has found some positives during the trip. “I thought we had a good stretch in the Clippers game. It was about seven or eight possessions when we got stops and we were able to get out and push and it just leads to easy offense. It’s something we have to reinforce, you get the reward when you defend.”
Trail Blazers: Although listed with an Achilles injury, Eric Bledsoe has been dealing with a variety of issues to the point it’s uncertain if he will return this season, according to coach Chauncey Billups. “He had a few situations when he got here that we had to shore up so he wasn’t taking any chances out there. He’s such a tough cookie he didn’t miss a game with the Clippers with all the injuries that he had.” Anfernee Simons will miss the next 1-2 weeks with patellar tendinopathy, but Billups said the results of an MRI of Simons’ knee were “a relief.”
Wizards: At the Golden State Warriors on Monday night.
Trail Blazers: At the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night.
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