Opening Statements: Wizards at Grizzlies, Game 77 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards at Grizzlies, Game 77

Updated: April 4, 2015

I have a vision of an NBA of the future, one in which quality of opponent determines the true value of a win or a loss and impacts the standings accordingly. Wins against teams like the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers of this season would count as fractions of a W, while a loss to one of them would count as slightly more than one L.

That’s not a serious suggestion, but the point remains. How proud can you really be of a win against these teams? John Wall set a career high in assists on Friday with 18 against the Knicks, a night after he dropped 15 dimes on the Sixers. He became just the second player to put together back-to-back 15-assist games this season; Rajon Rondo put up exactly 15 twice in a row back in early November when he was still with the Boston Celtics.

The wins still count, as do the stats (especially Otto Porter’s, whose stats count for double, I’m pretty sure), and the Wizards could use all the momentum they can muster as they mosey on into Memphis for a meeting with the 52-24 Grizzlies, tied with the Rockets for second-best in the West.

Expect Wall and the Wiz Kids to play with a chip on their shoulder after the star point guard commented after the first meeting that he felt slighted when the Wizards took the floor against a handful of Memphis scrubs at the Verizon Center.

“I think we’re a team that’s on the rise, and teams respect us now,” Wall said, following a 107-87 Wizards win. “And I guess they don’t respect us.”

Memphis coach David Joerger rested Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen in the game, while Mike Conley sat with a twisted ankle. Joerger said at the time that the rest was planned long before the game and that it had nothing to do with the quality of the opponent. For context, the Grizzlies had just played six games in the nine days before heading to the Phone Booth, including three straight on the road, the third of which was just one night earlier in Boston.

The Wizards dominated that game after a sluggish start that Paul Pierce called “kind of embarrassing,” holding recently-acquired Wizards killer Jeff Green and a crew of mostly backups to 38.8 percent shooting while forcing 23 turnovers. Despite the circumstances, it still goes down as a win over an eventual 50-game winner, and considering the Wizards’ record against elite teams (6-11 against the top eight teams in the league, including the Grizzlies win), they’ll take it.

Taming of the Grizzlies has been a rare occurrence for the Wizards in recent years. Before that sham victory, the last time the Wiz beat Memphis was when Wall went off for 47 two years ago (Marc Gasol didn’t play that night, either). Before that? November of 2010, when Gilbert Arenas led Washington to an 89-86 win.

Nobody on the current Wizards roster played in that 2010 win, though Wall was on the bench with a sprained ankle and Kevin Seraphin received a DNP-CD. All four of the players Joerger benched in the game earlier this season played in that 2010 Washington win. Conley, Randolph and Gasol all started while Allen came off the bench, as is the current setup. They combined for 56 points, 20 rebounds, 13 assists, six steals, and two blocks.

That season, the Grizzlies went 46-36, then they went 41-25 in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. They’ve won 50 games, playing in the Western Conference, in each of the three seasons since. It hasn’t led to any championships, because the omnipresent San Antonio Spurs and the Miami LeBron James and Company were around, but the consistency in Memphis is remarkable, and it has led the Grizzlies to back-to-back-to-back-to-back seasons of at least a .610 winning percentage.

Sources have confirmed that the Wizards also played basketball during that time.

Joining me for some Wiz-Grizz conversation is Jonah Jordan of Grizzly Bear Blues.

Teams: Wizards at Grizzlies
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Venue: FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tennessee
Television: CSN+
Radio: WNEW 99.1 FM / WFED 1500 AM
Spread: Grizzlies fav’d by 7.5

#1) Marc Gasol won the DPOY award in 2013, thanks in part to a DefRat of 95.4. Last year, that rating jumped up to 102.2, and it’s lingering around 101.7 so far this year.

Has his defense really dropped off that much since his incredible 2013, do the numbers not tell the whole tale or is there another culprit?

@jmj1757: Marc Gasol’s role has evolved significantly since 2013. He is asked to do so much more on the offensive end of the floor more now than ever before. It takes away from what he is able to do on defense. He’s never been a great rim protector, but now he’s not even a good one. His post defense is still great and he still directs players where to go like an elite center. I know Gasol will clamp down on that end when the Grizzlies need him the most. Just like he always does.

#2) When the Grizzlies first acquired Jeff Green back in January, they won 11 of their first 12 games with him in a Memphis jersey.

Green is fourth on the team with 13.3 points per game, and his scoring has obviously been a welcome addition, but how has he fit in otherwise?

@jmj1757: There have been fit problems at times, but that can be expected with any new player. Even when the Grizzlies were winning games Green stuck out like a sore thumb at times. Part of it was Coach Joerger trying to find the best lineups for him to flourish with and part of it was Jeff Green finding his own way. There were rough patches, but they have it figured out now. He is playing with confidence and has finally reached a nice comfort level with his teammates.

#3) ESPN’s front-office rankings were far kinder to the Grizzlies than they were to the Wizards, and justifiably so. Memphis came in 12th overall, 11th in coaching, tied for 11th in ownership and 12th in executives.

Did you agree with the various rankings?

@jmj1757: I think Coach Joerger should have been higher in the coaching section, but I agree with the other two. Robert Pera is still proving himself as an owner and hit speed bumps the last offseason so I wasn’t surprised by his ranking. I think he will rocket up in the coming years. The executives are harder to rank. I’m sure Chris Wallace becoming general manager again helped the Grizzlies go up a bit in that department.

#4) In your eyes, what is the single biggest flaw that the Grizzlies have? What about the Wizards?

@jmj1757: The biggest flaw that plagues the Grizzlies is floor spacing. They have superior inside play, but opposing teams are able to play off of Tony Allen or Jeff Green (sometimes) and double Marc Gasol or Zach Randolph. Courtney Lee’s recent slump is not making matters easier. The Grizzlies need someone to hit 3s and right now it’s Jeff Green, but he’s not consistent. They need Lee to get back to where he was or they’ll be in trouble.

The Wizards biggest problem is that their coach is Randy Wittman. That’s a huge problem that’s going to hold the Wizards back in the playoffs.

#5) How would you rate the acquisition of Vince Carter so far? His numbers, per game and per 36 minutes, are way down from his standard season, but he’s 38 years old and playing a different role than he’s ever played before.

How valuable is the cliched “veteran leadership” he brings to the team?

@jmj1757: When talking about Vince you have to realize that he was injured coming into the season. His ankles were just not right and his play suffered because of it. Then he injured a tendon in his foot and missed a few weeks of action. It was probably the best thing for him as he has come back looking like a completely different player. The “veteran leadership” thing is so cliched. Some people tried to use it as a reason to keep Tayshaun Prince. He is a leader and a vocal player, but I wouldn’t give it too much value.


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Bryan Frantz
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Bryan is a D.C. native with a degree in something or other from UNC. He has important, interesting hobbies, but mostly he just weeps over D.C. sports teams. You can find him on the Metro, inevitably complaining about Red Line delays.