Key Legislature: Wizards 100 vs Grizzlies 91 — Roster B-Side Successfully Pokes the Bear | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 100 vs Grizzlies 91 — Roster B-Side Successfully Pokes the Bear

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Updated: December 24, 2015

TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards vs. Grizzlies, Regular Season Game 27, Dec. 23, 2015, by Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur) from the Verizon Center, D.C.

Who knew that it would take a severe rash of injuries and a reliance on end-of-the bench players for the Wizards to finally string together a few wins. After Wednesday night’s victory over the Grizzlies, the Wizards have put together their most consistent stretch of basketball since last year’s playoff sweep of The North. Instead of the familiar faces this team is used to relying upon when times get tough, it has been a cast of supporting characters who have ultimately helped save Washington’s season.

The Wizards came into this most recent home stand feeling slightly dejected, having gone 1-4 on a recent road trip covering the NBA’s Southwest division. Back-to-back wins against the Hornets and Kings in D.C. were key, but a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on December 14 still left a bad taste in the mouth of the Wizards. It wasn’t just the loss itself that left them with unanswered questions, but how they lost. Memphis is no offensive juggernaut, but on that day the Grizz operated at an optimal level, having their best offensive output of the season and shooting a blistering 10-for-15 from 3.

Wednesday’s game proved to be much more difficult offensively for the Grizzlies, as the Wizards’ defense was as active as they have been all season. Coach Randy Wittman is notorious for his coachspeak post-game comments referring to effort, and it appears he’s been flipping through a thesaurus recently because “intensity” was, apparently, the difference in this one.

The Wizards definitely played with intensity, sure, and that might be a product of having a scrappy veteran such as Garrett Temple emerge as a key contributor in Bradley Beal’s absence.

Wittman, when asked about Temple’s play on the night:

“He plays with that high energy. Having him starting the game with Kelly [Oubre], who also has high energy. Kelly’s been that way whether he plays a minute or 12 minutes. He plays with a high intensity. So I think that does revolve around those two guys being in the starting lineup.”

Temple came into the Grizzlies game averaging 3.8 points per appearance over his five-year NBA career and, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, he became the first person in NBA history to record three consecutive 20-point games after going 250 or more games without one. Temple scored a career-high 21 points against the Hornets on Saturday, then followed up with 23 points against the Kings. There was no new career-high for Temple against Memphis, but he led all Wizards players in scoring with 20 points on 8-for-17 shooting from the field.

Memphis came into the game on the second night of a back-to-back in which they took it to the lowly 76ers, 104-90, and besides them grabbing an early 6-0 lead, the Grizzlies looked as if they were ready to get an early jump on their Christmas vacations. Mike Conley came to play, as did DMV-native Jeff Green, but the rest of the Grizz looked like they were sleepwalking through the first half of play. Guard Mario Chalmers wanted to get an early jump on his holiday season so bad, he went and got himself ejected … seemingly on purpose.

At the half, the Wizards held an 11-point lead that felt like it should have been much more—and Wiz fans know all it takes is a little bit of a lull to let an opponent back into a game. At the 9:56 mark of the third quarter, the Grizzlies pulled within eight points and the Wizards offense looked a bit disjointed after another one of Wall’s patented jump-pass turnovers. The conventional wisdom would have seen Wittman burn a timeout to settle down his guys before they blew yet another big lead, but the Wizards responded with an 8-0 run, sans the timeout, and were able to extend their lead to 16 points.

Yes, the Grizzlies were able to trim the Wizards’ lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but Washington answer David Joerger & Co. after a timeout in which Randy Wittman drew up a play to get Temple a 3-pointer—he made it. It was more than just the intensity that made the Wizards better on defense: the Wiz went to the drawing board and used X’s and O’s to take away some of the things that Memphis loves to do. Marc Gasol noted how the Wizards changed their defensive look: “Of course, defensively, they took away some stuff right away, especially the elbow action. We have things to get out of that, but we never got to them. We relied too much on the one-on-one action, and we sincerely are not that good at it, and that is what happens.”

Credit Jared Dudley for playing one of his best games defensively against a tough matchup in Zach Randolph, especially in the post. Dudley did an excellent job of fronting Z-Bo, who is Marc Gasol’s go-to option when he catches the ball in the high post. Once that action was taken away, the Grizzlies spent possession after possession over-passing and trying to find the perfect shot because their players did not have the confidence to take even slightly contested shots.

It must be a good feeling for Wizards fans to have a win going into the holiday, knowing that this team might be finding it’s groove both offensively and defensively. Once the Wizards regular rotation players come back, it will be interesting to see how they adjust to constantly evolving offensive and defensive schemes. But for now, let’s just appreciate the progress that has already been made and hope that this streak continues.

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
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Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. He is going into his second season writing for Truth About It, and also writes for sports analytics website numberfire.com. You can find him in a district bike lane in the Northwest neighborhood of Bloomingdale.