Hey, the Washington Wizards had another shot at going over .500 and didn't get it done. What are the odds?
Washington fell to the Memphis Grizzlies on the road, 92-87, in spite of a career night from Bradley Beal. Beal had 37 points off of 24 field goal attempts and would have had an even more efficient line if it weren't for a couple of missed shots late in the game. Normally when Beal's shooting this well, the Wizards' offense is bananas, yet the team failed to crack the 90 point barrier.
Almost all of this can be tied to a terrible game from John Wall, who finished with only five points and five assists on 2-10 shooting, and the players who benefit the most when he's playing well, namely Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster. Those two combined for only 13 points and the team outside of Beal was 2-17 from behind the arc. Solid games from the rest of the team weren't enough to make up the difference. It was probably fitting that Wall's last-ditch three-point attempt on an ugly possession at the end didn't go in.
The Wizards came out of the gate slow and spent most of the game trying to make a comeback without the benefit of a dominant performance from Wall. Washington eventually tied it at 80 halfway through the fourth quarter after Beal hit a baseline two to give him his 35th point, setting a new career best mark. Of course, with the game still tied, he tried to take a three after a few quick dribbles in transition on the following play and missed badly.
Eventually a Nene jumper gave the Wizards a two point lead, but this just wasn't Washington's night. The Wizards seemed to rush shots while Memphis took their time until the Grizzlies were up by two with possession and about 22 seconds left on the game clock. A turnover by Memphis gave the Wizards the ball back and a chance at winning their first game in Memphis since 2004. The Wizards couldn't get a clean look until Gortat hit Beal with a pass about 18 feet from the basket. He was wide open but missed the shot, giving the ball back to the Grizzlies.
After ZBo split a pair of free throws Washington got another shot at pulling off the win. The final play of the game was about as bad as possible, though, resulting in Wall taking a fadeaway three off the dribble a step or two behind the arc. It actually looked like it might rattle in, but it ultimately bounced out as the buzzer sounded. Game over.
All in all, it's hard to come away from this with a strong opinion about Washington's play. They were bad in the first half, good in the second, choked down the stretch and had a horrible game from Wall offset by a great one from Beal. This isn't a moral victory, but it's not the worst loss they've had this year. Hopefully they treat it as a learning experience and start to play better under pressure.
- This was Wall's worst game of the season. He struggled to get a rhythm early on and forced some face-palmingly bad shots. I'm talking threes off the dribble early in the shot clock, dribbling around the key to shoot a fadeaway jumper over a double team, stuff like that. Memphis' defensive scheme makes it very difficult for a ball handler to get all the way to the basket and tends to force a lot of floaters and long twos, neither of which play to Wall's strength. This also killed Washington's halfcourt offense, since the majority of their plays go through Wall. Washington's point total wasn't the best, but if it weren't for Beal's freak shooting night, they would have been lucky to crack 75 points. Wall finished with five points, five assists and four turnovers and his Memphis counterpart, Nick Calathes, scored 18 points off of 12 field goal attempts.
- After falling behind by as much as 16 points (at least), Washington got it back to within four late in the third quarter. Memphis stopped making shots and the Wizards got out in transition a lot more, largely due to Wall. Wall had a couple of nice assists, including one in transition to Gortat that saw him completely turn around Marc Gasol. Beal continued to rain in jumpers and when he's on fire like this he becomes borderline unguardable.
- Gortat played only 22 minutes, largely due to foul trouble, and looked good any time he touched the ball. He seems to get better and better every night at shooting little turnaround jumpers in the post and did a good job of banging under the rim with the physical Memphis front line.
- Calathes was huge for Memphis tonight. He hit shot after shot and looked very good orchestrating Memphis' offense. I wasn't too familiar with him before tonight but he appears to be a very good pick and roll player who could really benefit from playing with more space and a better roll man than Randolph or Gasol.
- Beal was on fire from the get-go, making his first five or so shots. There wasn't anything special about the shots he was taking or how Memphis was guarding him, he simply made almost all of those long twos and threes out of screen and rolls that he usually only makes 35 percent or so of. Even if tonight was just a product of luck, this has to help his confidence, and the more aggressive he is the better. Considering how much of modern NBA defense revolves around cutting off dribble penetration, it's really useful, especially against good defensive teams, to have someone like Beal who can score at a decent clip without having to dribble the ball inside the three point line. He finished with a career high of 37, making five of seven three pointers and shooting 15-24 overall. Not too shabby, right?