The Memphis Grizzlies (5-4) fell to the Washington Wizards (6-3) on Friday 115-87. Washington is now 4-1 at home while Memphis sinks to 2-3 on the road. Seven Wizards reached double-digits in scoring, highlighted by Bradley Beal’s team-best 17 points. Meanwhile, Jaren Jackson Jr. finished as the leading scorer for Memphis with 13 points on 14 shots.
Below are some takeaways from what was a game to forget for Memphis:
The Grizzlies first-half defense dug them in
Memphis’ struggles in getting stops so far this season have been as unexpected as they are disheartening. After last year’s team hung their hats on that end, this iteration of the Grizzlies has struggled to find consistent success defensively. Only once have they held their opponent to under 100 points thus far. Also, they currently own the worst defensive rating in basketball. And tonight, they allowed the opposition to light them up across the opening two quarters.
The Wizards entered the halftime break with 60 points on a blistering 59.5% shooting from the field. Five players scored at least eight points, spearheaded by Spencer Dinwiddie, who had 12. He and Bradley Beal (10 points) penetrated the teeth of the defense and found wide-open snipers time and time again, as Washington knocked down half of their 16 first-half three-point attempts.
Dillon Brooks — who is practicing but has yet to suit up this season — will help get the intensity and attention to detail back on track when he inevitably returns. But he alone isn’t the remedy for a Memphis defense with more holes than swiss cheese. It’s a team-wide matter that will take a collective effort to solve. With that said, it’s much too early to be legitimately concerned about the team’s slow start to the season in this regard. Call me if they’re still last in defensive rating by Thanksgiving.
An off night for Ja Morant
Morant has been, objectively, one of the most delightful players to watch in 2021-22. He’s staked his claim among the top floor generals in the sport and is well on his way to an All-Star nod and All-NBA nomination. But even the world’s best have bad games. And tonight was maybe Morant’s worst showing of the year to this point.
Morant’s stat line says it all: 11 points and four assists on an abysmal 4-for-17 shooting from the field, including 0-for-2 from three. The Washington big men, Daniel Gafford and Montrezl Harrell stymied Morant on multiple occasions in the paint, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made life difficult for him on the perimeter.
Morant won’t have many games like this, even over a long 82-game season. It’s likely fans will be able to count all of his “bad” nights on one hand when the season is all said and done. The Wizards got the better of Morant tonight, plain and simple. But he’ll learn from this loss and be more motivated to have a masterclass-like performance in the next game. And you better believe he will have the next showdown versus Washington circled on his calendar.
Memphis will travel back home to play the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday.