On the holiday to celebrate the late civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., the Washington Wizards sought to preserve its own legacy on the basketball court.
The Wizards (21-19) cruised to their 12th straight home victory Monday against the Portland Trailblazers, 120-101, at Verizon Center, extending the league’s longest current home-court winning streak.
While the players talked about their victory, they also spoke about playing on a day to honor King.
“He’s a hero to me and to a lot of people in the world,” said Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who led all scorers with 25 points. “The world that we live in today probably wouldn’t be what it is without the sacrifice and everything that he stood for.”
After a slow start in Saturday’s win over the Philadelphia 76ers, the Wizards shot out to a 10-0 lead in the opening minutes Monday. Beal and forward Kelly Oubre Jr. scored 11 and 10 points, respectively, in the first quarter.
The Wizards shot 6-of-7 behind the arc in the first quarter and finished 13-23 from deep for the game, a 57 percent clip.
In addition, the Wizards recorded its two highest-scoring quarters this season en route to a 75-point first half. Late in the third quarter, the Wizards stretched their lead to 30 points.
It also may have been the Wizards’ best defensive performance so far this season, forcing Portland (18-25) to shoot only 35 percent from the floor and 33 percent from 3-point range.
“Our start was much better,” said Wizards head coach Scott Brooks. “We were making them miss shots. We were moving the ball offensively and we were making shots. All the threes we made in that first quarter. They were all from good ball movement and extra passing.”
Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard scored 22 points but shot only 5 of 14 for the game and didn’t play in the fourth quarter.
Brooks credited point guard John Wall and Oubre for shadowing Lillard and forcing him to attempt tough shots.
“We’re a solid defensive team [and] we’ve been better,” said Oubre, who came off the bench to notch 18 points and four rebounds. “We were clicking on all aspects of our games. It was a good sight to see.”
The Wizards will seek their 13th straight home win Wednesday against the Memphis Grizzlies (25-18), a strong defensive team that ranks third in the NBA, giving up only 99 points per game.
Afterward, the Wizards start a three-game road trip Thursday in New York City against Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks.
“We’ve been playing very, very well on our home floor,” Brooks said. “We just have to figure out how we can get some of these wins on the road.”