Opening Statements: Wizards vs Grizzlies, Game 65 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Grizzlies, Game 65

Updated: March 12, 2015



The Wizards play the Memphis Grizzlies in D.C. tonight. If you’re at all tuned in to #BasketballTwitter, then you don’t need me to tell you that the Grizz are resting Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Tony Allen. And that floor general Mike Conley is out with a bum ankle.

What does it all mean? Are the Wizards now a proverbial doormat for Western Conference opponents? I picked up the phone and called Chip Crain (@3Shadesofblue), lead contributor to bear blog 3 Shades of BlueHe shared his thoughts about tonight’s matchup from the Dominican Republic. Nice guy.

“[Resting the starters] is not a slight against the Wizards,” he said. “The Grizzlies play 17 games in March. Six times in March they play back-to-back games: this is one of them. The Grizzlies have a two-game gap between Portland and Houston, and at least a 4.5-game lead on the Clippers, Spurs, Mavericks crew—that whole crowd—for home-court advantage.

“The Grizzlies are resting against an Eastern Conference team, I’m sure, because they still have to play the Clippers two more times, the Blazers again, the Spurs again, the Mavericks again, and another against the Pelicans. They have a brutal schedule coming up against Western Conference foes and they’ve been beaten up. They don’t often go against Eastern Conference teams where they’re not worried about losing a full-game advantage. Head-to-head matchups make the difference when you get to the playoffs. They’re thinking ahead, and it’s about time they did it.”

The Wizards are not exactly a doormat. Got it. But the Wiz kind of stink and they just lost “utility infielder” Garrett Temple to a hamstring injury, which is a blow, even if “utility infielder” is the most useless role in basketball.

So, does the Grizzlies B-Squad have a shot at beating them anyway? And who should you watch for?

Nick Calathes, PG
The Grizzlies are undefeated in games that Mike Conley has not played in this season. So out of the Big 4, losing Tony Allen is the most painful, even if he’s the worst offensive player of the bunch. “However,” Crain added, “the last few weeks Memphis has another guy who creates mayhem on defense in Nick Calathes. He had 15 steals in five games and didn’t play more than 15 minutes in any of those games. … This guy creates all kinds of problems, which is strange for a 6-foot-5 white point guard—you don’t expect that guy to be a great defensive player, but he is. He’s also one of the worst free throw shooters in NBA history—below 50 percent this year—but he does make shots when the Grizzlies need them.”

Jordan Adams, SG
This rookie from UCLA has been buried on the bench. Crain assured me that when he’s played, he’s played well. “The rookie is an impressive defensive player, with incredibly long arms for his size, and he has 3-point range—NBA range. He can shoot it. And when they start falling, it’s beautiful.”

Kosta Koufos, C
“He’s 7-foot-1, decent defensive player, nice rim protector, but not an offensive threat.”

JaMychal Green, PF
He’s a D-League call-up who just signed a multi-year contract. General Manager Chris Wallace described him as “a gifted athlete with tremendous upside.”

Jon Leuer, PF
This former Wisconsin hooper is just out there because he’s big. “He’s a $1 million player who might be overpaid at that rate. He took a step back this year,” Crain said.

Jarnell Stokes, PF
Crain sees a little Z-Bo in this rookie, picked up from the D-League’s Iowa Energy: “Has instincts in the rebounding game, a great touch around the basket, but needs to develop that 10-12 foot jump shot to force people out on him.”

Matchup to Watch?
Courtney Lee vs. Bradley Beal: two outstanding outside shooters, who play better defense than they get credit for.

“I don’t think Memphis has a lot of chance of winning this game,” Crain said. “I also don’t think they’re worried about winning or not.”

Vegas doesn’t think the Grizz have a shot, either. The Wizards are currently favored by nine.

BUT THIS PREVIEW AIN’T OVER. There’s more after the jump.

Teams: Wizards vs. Grizzlies
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
Television: TNT
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 9 points.

Busy basketball guy Matt Moore, of CBS SportsLine fame, was kind enough to answer a handful of Grizz-focused questions. Get it on!

Q #1. Today, David Thorpe tweeted that “Mike Conley does not look like the star player he was for much of the season, and that is all it takes to drop Grizz from contenders list.”

What’s your take—and what’s changed since the first half of the season?

@HPbasketball: I mean, it’s March. I think we need to chill out. Memphis is tired, they’re coasting, and Conley’s banged up. Memphis has to rest him, but I have absolute confidence that Conley’s going to come out in the playoffs and everyone will go “OH THAT’S RIGHT, HE’S AWESOME.” Conley doesn’t have to shoulder an offense like Westbrook, he’s not the maestro like CP3. He’s banged up, they need to get him rest, but you can’t write anyone off the contenders list in the West until they’re dead in the ground and the backhoe has put the dirt over them and the aunts have put away the crockpots from the potluck wake. It’s just not advisable. No one’s dead and everyone’s dangerous.

Q #2. The Grizzlies, like the Wizards, don’t attempt a lot of 3s. But the Grizz (45-19) are also the second-best team in the wild, wild West.

Focusing only on the offensive side, do you chalk it up to their ability to get to the free throw line? What makes them so effective in drawing fouls?

@HPbasketball: It’s a combination of having two monsters inside that are both bigger and quicker than their opponents, awesome cutting schemes that get Tony Allen and Jeff Green unencumbered to the rim, and their quick pick-and-roll action in transition. The Grizzlies get you on tilt, then lean on you till you fall over. That’s the offense. And they are more aggressive than almost any team in the league. They are coming right at you and are not afraid of help defense. That, plus veteran respect, gets them calls.

Q #3. On the defensive side, what makes the Grizz such a tough matchup for opposing NBA teams? How has Jeff Green adjusted to the grind?

@HPbasketball: You’re not going to find a handsier defense in the league now that the KG Celtics are broken up. They attack everything. Pick-and-rolls, chasing the ball and swiping, passing lanes, sending help defenders at drives, and generally making things ugly. The Grizzlies set the tone with the officials that they basically have to call everything and ruin the game or let a lot go. Mucks things up worse.

Green’s been Green. The numbers are bad, the visual impact is big. He’s really helpful in terms of lineup versatility. Being able to deploy him as a stretch 4 in small-ball lineups changes what Memphis can do, and that’s huge for their flexibility. He’s going to have some games where he’s absolutely brilliant and games where he’s absolutely terrible. He’s an overall plus, even if the net rating is still catching up with him.

Q #4. What’s your #HotSportsTake on Head Coach Dave Joerger? He was on the hot seat last spring, but Joerger’s place by the scorer’s table seems pretty secure. Has he improved? Is he the right coach for the Grizzlies?

He does seem to get the most out of his roster…

@HPbasketball: Massively impressed with Joerger. He couldn’t get the guys to buy in last year, relented wisely, and let them go back to the muckball they’d always played. Since then he’s added a huge number of wrinkles that get easy looks for guys which changes the offense and he’s helped a huge amount with both the transition pick-and-roll I mentioned earlier and with weakside ball reversal out of the post, which springs their shooters. Joerger’s been fantastic from an X’s and O’s standpoint, and you feel good about him going toe-to-toe with anyone in the playoffs in terms of adjustments.

Q #5. Prediction time!

@HPbasketball: It’s a pick ’em in Vegas, and either result wouldn’t shock me. Memphis should roll over and die. They’re banged up, tired, bored with the grind, and on a road-road back-to-back. This should be a Wizards cruise. But Memphis has won so many of these games I assumed they were screwed in that I have to have some faith in them. I’ll go 91-89 in a tense, frustrating slugfest for both teams.

UPDATE: I just saw that they’re sitting starters, so yeah. Wizards 97, Grizzlies 79.

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John Converse Townsend
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
John has been part of the editorial team at TAI since 2010. He likes: pocket passes, chase-down blocks, 3-pointers. He dislikes: typos, turnovers, midrange jump shots.