Grizzlies 92 - Wizards 89
With the Mavericks getting pounded by the Bobcats tonight, and possibly losing Dirk Nowitski to an ankle injury, the Grizzlies needed had a prime opportunity tonight to climb the rankings with a win against the Washington Wizards.
Mike Conley was seen putting up shots in pregame, but had not participated heavily in shoot-around earlier today and so was not expected to start. He didn't. Neither did Tony Allen, who was also listed as day-to-day. Courtney Lee, who rolled his ankle in the last game against Cleveland, was good to go.
Both offenses were wide open early, with Memphis hitting 4 of their first 5 shots and Bradley Beal getting 9 quick points on 4-4 shooting. Nick Calathes had a strong first quarter with 6 points — he also deflected a John Wall pass and finished the ensuing fast break with a layup. Gasol looked aggressive early, canned 6 first-quarter points, and generally looked more "in charge" than he has recently — a welcome sight. The Grizzlies held a mild 24-23 lead at the end of one, crucially not allowing Washington's high first quarter scoring offense put them in an early hole.
The Grizzlies bench was outstanding in the first half, with Kosta Koufos, Ed Davis, and James Johnson all getting good minutes on a second-unit that has gelled tremendously. Bloodsport made the end-of-the-year team highlight reel with a truly ridiculous backhanded dunk mid-way through the quarter, and followed it up with a fast break and-one, set up by Calathes. He was the star of the quarter with 10 points on 3-3 shooting, helping the Grizzlies build a six point lead into an 13-point halftime margin while they played lock-down defense against everyone but Bradley Beal (19 first-half points). Johnson capped it off with a soaring track-down block of Trevor Ariza's three-point attempt at the buzzer. Take a bow, sir.
James Johnson. What a story. What a find.— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) February 12, 2014
With a 52-39 halftime lead, the Grizzlies started settling for perimeter jumpers, but lost the shooting contest to Bradley Beal, who finished the game with a career high 37 points on just 15 shots. As the Grizzlies' starters rotated back in, the Wizards took advantage of lax transition defense and got several free, fast trips to the basket off of Memphis misses to cut the lead to four. The only upside at this point was John Wall's complete disappearance, aided by surprisingly competent defense by Nick Calathes. The Grizzlies regained some ground to close out the quarter and took a 79-70 lead into the fourth.
The Grizzlies went cold again to start the fourth, going 0-7 in the first six minutes while Washington came back to tie the game at 80. After a timeout, Memphis reeled off a 7-2 run to regain control and made it a two-possession game in the final 1:47. A clutch jumper by Gasol to make it 91-86 should have put the game on ice, but some late game mistakes gave the Wiz a chance to tie the game on the last possession. It was sloppy, but John Wall got a decent look from 28 feet only to see the ball rim out and the game clock expire. The Grizzlies escaped with a 92-89 win, led by Nick Calathes' 18 points and Zach Randolph's silent double-double.