Tonight, the Grizzlies embark on a short, two game road trip that begins in Washington facing the Wizards, who we all wish were the Bullets. (I mean, seriously. Come on guys. Change your name back already. Everybody will love you for it.) The first time the Grizzlies played the Wizards this season, they were able to win the contest 85-76. Furthermore, the game was symbolic of a new era in Memphis. It was the first game that Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye, and Ed Davis suited up for in a Grizzlies uniform. It was the first game Grizzlies fans could fully feel and appreciate the albatross that was Rudy Gay being lifted from around the team's neck.
Mike Conley was a stat sheet stuffer in the first game between the two teams, putting up 18 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, and most impressively albeit not surprisingly, 4 steals. Both teams were awful at protecting the ball in the first meeting, combining for 35 turnovers between the teams. Hopefully fans will be treated to a better brand of basketball tonight in the second and last meeting between the teams this year.
A win in this one is important to get the Grizzlies back on track on the road. They have dropped three straight on the road, and it is important for them to reestablish that confidence about playing away from home before entering the playoffs and being thrust into much more hostile environments than a half full Verizon Center.
Scouting the Wizards
- The Wizards go as John Wall goes. Wall has been arguably the hottest player in the league recently, excluding extraterrestrials e.g. LeBron James. Over the last 10 games, Wall has seen a significant spike in all three of the big three categories. Over the last 10 games, Wall is averaging 20.7 points per game, 4.5 rebounds, and 8.5 assists per game. Wall's passing ability is underrated, and that part of his game has seemed exceptionally sharp recently. If the Grizzlies can disrupt him and keep him from penetrating the lane frequently, that should limit his assists.
- When Bradley Beal has played, he has been a key part of the Wizards offense this year, and recently he has looked more comfortable on the floor and looks to have his feet settled under him as a rookie in the Association. Beal is a sharp shooter, and he can fill it up if given space and time to step into his jumper. 23.1% of Beal's shots come from spot up opportunities, and he is most dangerous when he has time to set his feet before rising and firing. Assuming Tony Allen will draw the assignment of guarding Beal, he needs to stay disciplined and not roam aimlessly like he sometimes tends to do when he sees another player as a bigger threat to score. He cannot afford to leave Beal alone on the three point line and cheat to the middle to try to help on a Wall drive or a Nene post up. He just needs to stay home and trust Conley and Gasol to do their job defensively. After all, both guys have proven that they are two of the most trustworthy teammates in the league on the defensive end of the floor this season. Beal is questionable for tonight's game, so that might leave the Grizzlies with one less weapon to deal with.
- The one area the Wizards really excel at as a team on offense is in transition. The Wizards rank 11th in the league in transition offense, and with a young core group of guys they look to get out and run anytime they can. John Wall in the open court is a thing of beauty, and it is something the Grizzlies should obviously look to contain.
- Shockingly, the Wizards are not as bad on defense as one would think a team with an overall record of 25-44 would be. The Wizards are seventh in the league in terms of Defensive Rating at 100.0, which means they only allow 100 points per 100 possessions. Additionally, the Wizards are seventh in the league in opponents eFG% at 48%.
- The Grizzlies are a much better rebounding team than the Wizards, so there should be ample second chance opportunities for the good guys. In the first meeting between the two teams, The Grizzlies outrebounded the Wizards 46-31, while pulling down 12 offensive boards.
- Injuries: WAS - Bradley Beal - Questionable; WAS - A.J. Price - Questionable; MEM - Marc Gasol - Questionable
- What will Jerryd Bayless' follow up to his 30 point game look like? Hopefully much of the same.
- Hopefully, we will get to see Tony Wroten matched up on John Wall at some point. That would be an excellent battle between two athletic freaks.
- Last time the teams played, Gasol finished with 13 points and 15 rebounds. Hopefully, he can be healthy enough to not only give it a go but to repeat that performance.
- Not so much of a game note, but the Grizzlies deserve a great deal of appreciation and a token of the fans' gratitude after what they have accomplished by clinching a playoff spot for the third straight season after beating the Celtics. That is something to raise our glass to as proud Grizzlies fans. That is no easy accomplishment, especially in the Western Conference. The Grizzlies embody the heart and soul of Memphis, and there should not be a single person living in Memphis or the state of Tennessee that is not proud of the franchise and what it has accomplished in a mere 12 seasons in the city.