Well, the Wizards almost done Wizarded.
Don't be fooled when you see the final 110-104 score of this game, because it had no business being that close. The Washington Wizards looked listless on defense and discombobulated on offense most the game and were down by 19 in the fourth quarter before a flurry of threes in the final minutes brought them to within two. But it was too little, too late against the solid-and-healthy Memphis Grizzlies.
Trevor Ariza got the three-point barrage started with a triple that made the score 99-87 with 3:05 to play. John Wall then made a couple threes in a span of 29 seconds, with a Mike Miller three sandwiched in between, but things didn't get really crazy until Otto Porter (yes, that Otto Porter) sank his second (SECOND!!) three of the game to pull Washington within 102-98 with 1:17 to go.
But then Tayshaun Prince (who, you'll remember, Porter compared himself to prior to the 2013 NBA Draft) buried a jumper with his feet on the three-point line to put the Grizzlies up six with 55 seconds left. When Wall missed a potential and-one layup, and then the first free throw, the game appeared to be over. But Marc Gasol followed that up with a pair of misses at the stripe, and the Wiz still had a chance, down five with 39.5 seconds to go. Wall made a driving layup, but Conley sank a couple of free throws, and again, things seemed academic.
But then Bradley Beal nailed a three to make it a two-point game, and it would have been PANDEMONIUM ... but there were only 8.9 seconds left. The Grizzlies made their free throws, and Washington's six-game winning streak came to an end.
At least the Wizards were able to give this stinker a spit shine. Again missing Nene and Kevin Seraphin, and without Martell Webster, the Wizards finally struggled on offense, and reverted to their early-season form on defense.
A defensive-minded team themselves, the Grizzlies shot 54.4 percent. The Wizards' starters ended up with decent numbers, all five scoring in double figures, but the injuries to Nene, Seraphin and Webster showed up big time when the starters had to rest. The Wiz only got 14 points from their bench, and 12 of them came from Porter and Al Harrington.
The pace dragged all game for the Wizards, as they couldn't seem to buy a fast break opportunity. Of course, they didn't do themselves any favors by playing lackluster defense and generating few turnovers that turned into easy opportunities on the other end. A few minutes into the fourth quarter, Memphis had 20-10 edge in fast break points, which can't happen for the Wizards to beat most teams, but especially a team like the Grizz, who, as Amin noted in the game preview, boast the slowest pace of any team in the league.
After struggling with his shot in the first half, Bradley Beal came alive in the third quarter by passing up midrange shots, keeping his dribble alive and getting into the paint for high-percentage looks or trips to the foul line. Unfortunately, the Wizards kept falling asleep on defense and giving the Grizzlies easy looks at the rim, allowing Memphis to finish the quarter on a 17-2 run and take a 15-point lead into the fourth. Wall specifically was guilty of letting Mike Conley get past him and into the paint on a few occasions.
Washington started the game stout on defense and smooth in their half-court offense, but a few turnovers towards the end of the first quarter let the Grizzlies get out and score a couple fastbreak buckets. Randy Wittman also went with an interesting, big lineup towards the end of the first quarter: Andre Miller, Ariza, Chris Singleton, Al Harrington and Gortat. Of course, as soon as I snickered, Singleton actually beat Conley with a shot fake for a layup. All in all, there was plenty of ugly basketball, which is par for the course when playing the Grizz. The score was knotted at 20-20 after the first quarter.
The offense screeched to a halt early in the second quarter once Drew Gooden came in for Marcin Gortat -- it took the Wizards more than five minutes to score two field goals. Meanwhile, the solid first-quarter defense evaporated, and the Grizzlies started finding teammates wide open under the basket for easy buckets. #WizardsTwitter began to wonder (again), and rightfully so, just what Otto Porter had done (or not done) to remain benched with Nene, eraphin and Webster hurt. Maybe someone with the Wizards let Wittman know, because Porter got in for all of 46 seconds at the end of the half.
At one point in the second quarter the Grizzlies were up 11, but a late run fueled by Wall pulled Washington within two points before another defensive breakdown gave Tayshaun Prince a wide open three that gave Memphis a 50-45 lead heading into halftime. The Wizards had played sloppy on offense and looked confused on defense, so they were lucky to only be down five. Both Wall and Beal scored their career highs against the Grizzlies, who must hold grudges against such things, as Washington's starting backcourt duo was held to a combined 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting in the first half.
Okay, that stunk. The good news? In their next five games, the Wizards play the Jazz, Bucks, Heat, Bobcats and Magic, which should mean a 4-1 stretch is coming. Here's some notes:
- Trevor Booker did yeoman's work all game battling Zach Randolph down low. Booker is much stronger than his frame would suggest, and his height is actually something of an asset against a low-post banger like Randolph. It helps him maintain leverage.
- Can't imagine Marcin Gortat having much success posting up Gasol.
- Memphis is the worst possible type of team (read: elite paint defense) for Beal to have an off-shooting night against. Appropriately, Beal shot 1-for-7 in the first half.
- Man, if you want Beal to look fast, put him on the court the same time as Miller, Singleton, Harrington and Gooden.
- Now, Gortat can post up against Kosta Koufos all he wants.
- Beal came alive offensively in the third quarter by (shocker) not settling for midrange jumpers, and instead getting into the paint for higher-percentage shots and (!!!) free throws.