Portland next up as Wizards ride 11-game home win streak

WASHINGTON — Here’s a message for Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers: Be warned. The Washington Wizards just don’t lose at home anymore.

Fueled by John Wall’s mid-game surge, the Wizards ran past the Philadelphia 76ers 109-93 on Saturday night for their 11th straight win at home, the longest active streak in the NBA. Washington (20-19) hadn’t won 11 in a row at home since a 15-game streak during the 1988-89 season as the Washington Bullets.

The chance for a dozen straight comes Monday afternoon against Portland when the teams meet on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday for a second straight season.

“It’s just been our defense and just us getting after it and playing with energy,” Wizards guard Bradley Beal said of their winning ways beyond a supportive home crowd. “It makes everything easier on offense when we get out and run.”

Washington’s performance was slow going against Philadelphia, continuing a recent and unwanted trend. The 76ers, led by center Jahlil Okafor, were shredding the Wizards’ defense and led 43-30 in the second quarter. Yet by halftime the score was tied and the Wizards led by 15 points after three quarters and 24 in the fourth quarter.

What changed?

The point guard’s play, for one. Wall closed the first half with energetic play and drained three 3-pointers in a row during the third quarter. He finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists despite not playing in the fourth quarter and dealing with multiple injuries. His painful right pinky required a splint for stabilization.

“It starts with me,” said Wall, who is averaging 22.9 points, 10.2 assists and 2.2 steals. “When I’m not aggressive on both ends of the floor, it kind of slows our team down. I have to do a better job of that. 1/8In the second quarter 3/8 I started to pick it up and then everyone else started to pick it up and we started to play better.”

Washington started the season 2-8, but now sits above .500 having won four of its last five games. The Wizards are 14-7 since Dec. 5.

Over that same stretch, Portland (18-24) has gone the other way. After defeating the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 5, the Trail Blazers dropped 14 of 20 games, yet still hold the eighth best record in the Western Conference. Portland, sixth in scoring and 27th in points allowed, is 4-3 in January.

“We want to be a playoff team,” Lillard recently told the Oregonian. “And if (the playoffs) started today, we’d be in. We’re still trying to find our way. But the encouraging thing is that we’re starting to play much better basketball. Going forward, I believe things will go in our favor and we’ll start winning a lot more of these games.”

Portland dropped its final game, 115-109 against the Orlando Magic on Friday, before embarking on a four-game road trip. That snapped a two-game winning streak including 102-86 victory over the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

“I think we’re starting to see a little light,” big man Ed Davis said. “That’s all we need. We’re a team that, once we start playing with confidence, we get rolling and we get hot.”

Trail Blazers starting forward Moe Harkless did not play Friday with a calf strain.

Lillard and CJ. McCollum, among the top starting backcourts in the NBA along with Wall and Beal, average 50.1 points per game.

Portland won both games in the series last season including 108-98 in Washington.