Fading Blazers looking to end losing streak against Wizards

March 9, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Portland Trail Blazers forward Trendon Watford (2) looks to pass the ball under pressure from Utah Jazz center Udoka Azubuike (20) in the fourth quarter at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing – USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers are rethinking how they measure success as they drop in the Western Conference standings.

Portland is riding a six-game losing streak in Saturday night’s game against the visiting Washington Wizards, whose four-game trip continued with a 122-109 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.

The Blazers hit a new low on Wednesday as they trailed 51 points in the third quarter of a 123-85 loss to the Utah Jazz.

Given the team’s recent rosters, it should come as no surprise that Portland has lost its last six games by a total of 194 points. The team had eight players inactive on Wednesday, including leading scorers Damian Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic and Anfernee Simons.

Simons, 22, has been one of the team’s few bright spots this season, but the shooter will miss his third straight game on Saturday with a left knee injury. Simons is averaging 17.3 points on 44.3 percent shooting from the field.

Portland is one game away from the Western Conference Qualifying Tournament, but interim general manager Joe Cronin isn’t focused on short-term goals.

“You want to create a competitive environment; you want a culture of winning,” he said. “It’s the old Vince Lombardi quote: ‘Winning is a habit, and sadly losing too.’ So I’m afraid of forming bad habits, but I also want us to focus on the big picture.We’re stuck on next year – we were on the trade deadline and we still are today.

“Do we want to compete? We would like to compete at all levels. It’s hard to think about not making the playoffs or losing the play-offs, but we have to be smart. Smart with people’s health. Intelligent with the development of our players. Smart with these young guys the reps they need. So much of it just focuses on the big picture. Which is difficult.

Portland is targeting a season sweep of Washington after recording a 115-110 win on Jan. 15.

Wizards center Kristaps Porzingis is scheduled to sit Saturday’s game after recording 14 points and a season-high 14 rebounds against the Lakers on Friday.

Washington fell 2½ games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the final Eastern Conference play-off berth after dropping two straight and five of its last seven.

Kyle Kuzma scored 23 points against Los Angeles while rookie Corey Kispert added a career-high 21 points, including five 3-pointers. The Wizards struggled to contain Lakers star LeBron James, who finished with 50 points on 18 of 25 shooting.

One bright spot for Washington has been the play of third-year guard Rui Hachimura, who is averaging 13.2 points in five games this month.

“Every game I feel like he’s gotten better,” Wizards guard Bradley Beal said. “He doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary. He plays hard, does his job and he’s competitive. That’s all you can ever ask Rui.

Washington coach Wes Unseld Jr. was also pleased with the play of reserve center Daniel Gafford, who had seven rebounds and three blocks in Friday’s loss to the Lakers.

Gafford, who is averaging 9.1 points and 5.9 rebounds, could enter the starting lineup on Saturday if Porzingis misses.

–Field level media