Washington’s winning streak would eventually come to an end, and with Nene, Kevin Seraphin, and Martell Webster out, it had all the makings of a loss for the Wizards tonight. The Memphis Grizzlies came to the nation’s capital with a healthy roster and took advantage of Washington’s lack of size.
Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol made life miserable for Trevor Booker and Marcin Gortat tonight. Although neither player put up spectacular numbers, Randolph and Gasol took away any easy shots the Wizards were going to get at the basket, and forced them to shoot from the perimeter. Gasol mixed it up well, picking up 8 assists on the night, but his presence on the defensive end of the floor was remarkable. His ability to close out driving lanes and defend his man on face up situations never ceases to amaze me. He stole the ball three times tonight, but it felt like he stripped it away every time Marcin Gortat tried scoring in the post. Like always, Randolph did a good job following his own missed shots and it really threw Washington off and it certainly didn’t help that Trevor Booker was matched up against Randolph tonight.
John Wall had the size advantage over Mike Conley tonight, but Conley’s ability to control the pace and tempo of the game is one of the most underrated skills in the league. Conley picked Washington’s defense apart, executing the pick-and-roll to perfection with Gasol, which is an area the Wizards have struggled to defend this season. John Wall wasn’t too bad either, scoring 23 points on 8-16 shooting to go along side 9 assists. The Eastern Conference Player of the Week knocked down multiple threes in the fourth quarter to help cut Washington’s double-digit deficit, but it unfortunately wasn’t enough to complete the comeback.
Despite having an atrocious first half, Wall’s backcourt mate, Bradley Beal, made up for his performance in the second half. He scored 9 straight points in the third quarter and looked like he was the only one capable of putting the ball in the basket in the half court. Once he got aggressive and actually starting to attack the basket, Washington’s offense picked up. He needs to settle for less jump shots and that’s become increasingly evident.
Perhaps the most fun thing about tonight’s game was a lineup including John Wall, Bradley Beal, and…Otto Porter, of all people, Martell Webster sat out with a sore back tonight, and Porter would inevitably see some playing time. After knocking down a lucky buzzer beating three in the third quarter, Randy Wittman thought it’d be a good idea to keep Porter in the game, and it eventually payed off. For a rookie who hasn’t played in what seems like an eternity, Porter looked poised on the court and made the most of his minimal opportunity. Porter followed up his lucky three point shots by knocking down another three in the fourth quarter to help cut Memphis’ lead to single digits. With Nene and Martell Webster out, the Wizards should look to utilize Porter more often. Washington will have to play some small ball and it wouldn’t hurt to play Porter a few minutes with Wall and Beal.
All five starters scored in double-digits for the Wizards, but it wasn’t enough to stop the scrappy Grizzlies. There’s no shame in losing to a team like Memphis, especially when missing Nene, Kevin Seraphin, and Martell Webster. The bench only chipped in with 14 points, but the starters did a good job of keeping the team in the game.
Washington will be back at it on Wednesday night against the Utah Jazz.