With the Presidential Inauguration just days away, Washington D.C. is a place bustling with activity. The Washington Wizards have been putting in work in the Nation’s Capital, as well. Coming in to their game tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies the Wizards had won twelve straight at home, imposing their will on opponents with one of the NBA’s most effective starting lineups.
There was no reason for the Grizzlies to be taking the Wizards for granted, and early in the contest it would seem that the two most important Grizzlies, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, did not. Marc and Mike scored all of Memphis’ first 11 points, and they appeared to be locked in on offense, at least. On the defensive side of the court was a different story. The Grizzlies continued to get lost on rotations and left open the likes of John Wall and Otto Porter Jr., who made four shots from range in the quarter. The Wizards took advantage and scored 17 points in the first five minutes and change of the contest, driving the lane and getting the ball to open shooters.
Memphis kept it close, but their issues with Marcin Gortat screens and the drives/shots off of them gave the Wizards five made threes to the Grizzlies one and D.C. a 30-24 lead after one quarter even though both teams shot 47% from the field in the opening frame.
The second quarter started poorly for Memphis. Missed lay-ups and easy attempts off of turnovers for the Wizards led to a nine-point lead and an early timeout from Coach Fizdale. The Grizzlies just could not defend the Wizards, and their 57.1% shooting through the first half reflected that. Washington built their lead to eighteen at one point as their bench built a lead (a surprise, considering the hope that Memphis’ bench would be able to take advantage of that match-up.)
Otto Porter had 17 points and 5 rebounds, Markieff Morris had 13 points and 17 rebounds, and John Wall had 15 points and 8 assists. All of that was a recipe for a big Wizards advantage, as D.C. was up 66-51 at the end of the first half.
The second half began with a nice 9-3 run by the Grizzlies, led by, believe it or not, Chandler Parsons. Parsons and Marc Gasol were working well in the pick and roll, and a Tony Allen offensive rebound and put back got the lead down to seven with three minutes gone in the third period. The Grizzlies defense was also much more engaged during the run that saw the Wizards’ lead get cut to seven points. But that did not last the entire third quarter- the Wizards got in to the bonus early and found their rhythm on offense again, getting the lead back to 13 points...
Until the comeback Grizzlies, after a Vince Carter three and great effort from JaMychal Green (14 points and 12 rebounds on 6-6 shooting through three quarters), made this a game once again. The score was 83-77 at the end of the third quarter.
The final stanza of the game began with both teams struggling offensively, as only four points were scored between the two squads in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter. Memphis was struggling keeping the Wizards off the offensive glass, as they were playing well defensively but giving up far too many second and third chances for Washington to score. The Grizzlies kept it close despite not making an actual field goal until 5 minutes were left in the fourth (getting in the bonus early was huge)...until Otto Porter made two more threes to build upon his career best night from beyond the arc and extended the lead to 95-83 with 5:23 left in the game.
Then, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol took over. Gasol attacked the rim and got to the charity A six-point sequence from Conley (three made free throws followed by a made three point basket) got the lead of the Wizards down to two with 2:34 left.
Then, John Wall took over. Two big buckets out of a timeout gave the Wizards a six-point advantage and though Memphis fought to the finish in this back and forth second half, the Grizzlies could not pull out another improbable comeback victory. The Wizards continued to gobble up offensive rebounds late in the game, which led to too many missed opportunities on this night. After one last-chance three pointer fell short for Memphis at the buzzer from James Ennis, the Wizards beat the Grizzlies 104-101.
Some final thoughts on this loss in D.C.-
- Marc Gasol was the man tonight, scoring 28 points alongside five assists. He attempted 11 free throws, making 10 of them. That aggression at the rim is a welcome sight. JaMychal Green also had a big night for the Grizzlies with 15 points on 6-7 shooting (2-2 from three) and 13 rebounds.
- Mike Conley and Zach Randolph were a combined 8-27 from the field. That is going to be hard to overcome for the offensively challenged Grizzlies any night, especially on the road against a team who had won 12 straight at home coming in to the game.
- Head Coach David Fizdale essentially went with an eight-man rotation tonight- with the five starters (Conley/Allen/Parsons/Green/Gasol) and James Ennis, Zach Randolph, and Vince Carter. Tony Allen fouling out likely played a big part in the increased minutes for James Ennis, but again conspicuous by his absence is Troy Daniels, the three-point shot machine. The inconsistent use of Daniels remains a major story for the offense-starved Grizzlies.
Memphis is back in action on Friday night as the Grizzlies welcome the Sacramento Kings to FedExForum.