Andrew Harrison led the Grizzlies in scoring with 20 points, 1 short of his career-high, during their 16th loss in the past 17 games. The loss drops Memphis to 8-20 on the season.
From the start, the Grizz looked outclassed and outmatched. The Grizzlies have been without Mike Conley for quite some time, but Tyreke Evans sat Wednesday night to alleviate hip soreness. Without their two primary conductors, the offense needed a jump start in the worst way, and it did not occur in the first half.
Memphis played some of the worst basketball any person with eyes will ever see in that first half. There was no direction or focus, making the Marc Gasol post-up even more predictable and easy to defend. Mario Chalmers and Andrew Harrison can’t run an offense at all like Tyreke or Mike can. That leads to Marc Gasol posting up to see if he can draw a double team and pass or just go up against his defender and score.
Neither could work as Marc was given no room in which to operate, often facing clogged passing lanes with Washington defenders sagging off non-intimidating Memphis shooters. They shot a paltry 27.8% from the field and 23.1% from three in the first half, numbers I didn’t think were possible in a game between two NBA teams.
Washington was the polar opposite. Instead of missing their star point guard, they got theirs back. John Wall made his return after a 3-week absence and, after getting his legs underneath him, started imposing his will. In the 2nd quarter, Wall was able to penetrate and drive to the rim with almost no contention. He was such a one-man wrecking crew that he went on a 9-0 run against the Memphis Grizzlies by himself in the 2nd quarter. Wall’s domination and Memphis’s offensive futility lead to the Grizzlies being down 41-29 at halftime.
Just as ridiculous as the first half was atrocious, Memphis tied the game at 62 in the 4th quarter after beautiful ball movement led to a Ben McLemore three-pointer. It was the first tie in the game since 4-4, and Memphis still had not held the lead at that point. Memphis got to that spot in the game by causing turnovers and falling Grizz-backwards into made shots on offense.
The looks weren’t particularly good for the Grizzlies, and it took a hell of a lot of work to find them, but Memphis hit 4 3-pointers in the 3rd while holding Washington to 0. That’s always an excellent way to cut a deficit.
Then, somehow, someway, Memphis took the lead. It left as quickly as it came, but it felt like a miraculous achievement for a team that scored LESS THAN THIRTY POINTS IN THE FIRST HALF. A deep James Ennis three-pointer brought about the 67-65 advantage, but the Wizards responded with a 13-0 run in 3 minutes. The third quarter when Memphis could find and hit shots in rhythm and play stout defense seems more like an aberration, and the first half when Memphis scored 29 whole dang points is closer to reality.
After a competitive score in the 4th quarter, Memphis ended up limping towards the end, losing as expected. The destination was what we all thought, but it was a super weird and winding road to get there. Memphis wouldn’t be put away, and at times it was hard to see how they were sticking around.
The final score will indicate a closer game than it actually was. Andrew Harrison had a perfect backdoor cover (the Wizards were favored by 7.5 points) in a game to beautifully encapsulate how Memphis can make games competitive after being down - or up - early in the game. This performance was more of the same consistent inconsistency for the Memphis Grizzlies, and the results are becoming more and more indicative of this team’s true quality.