Wizards Take Down The Grizzlies For Their 13 Straight Home Win | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards Take Down The Grizzlies For Their 13 Straight Home Win

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Updated: January 19, 2017

https://twitter.com/WashWizards/status/821926407911522304

The Wizards held on for dear life in the fourth quarter to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies, 104-101—their 13th straight home win and their sixth win in the last seven games. Given how frequent of an occurrence their Verizon Center victories have been (their 18 home wins are tied for second most in the NBA), it should not be at all surprising that, at the final buzzer, they once again found themselves in the winning column, right?

Not necessarily.

The Grizzlies came into last night’s game tied as the sixth best team in the Western Conference, with a record of 25-18. In other words, they were the best team the Wizards had faced at home since they played the Clippers on December 18.  They are led by a crafty point guard in Michael Conley, and they have two big men in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph who can bang inside but feel equally comfortable shooting beyond the 3-point arc—something Gasol did to beat the Wizards in the second game of the season. Memphis also has Tony Allen, who is the basketball equivalent of a shutdown corner, and per Grizzlies Coach David Fizdale, now serves as the official backup point guard.

Coach Brooks said before the game that the Grizzlies like to play their game at one pace, and that it was important that his Wizards team do their best to impose their collective will to offset that: speed kills.

In the first quarter, John Wall was the facilitator, Otto Porter was the scorer, and together they set the pace and put the Grizzlies on their heels. After 12 minutes, Porter had 12 points on four 3-point shots, which came in intervals of two on two separate occasions in the quarter, and Wall had nine points and five assists (two to Porter).  Mike Conley (8 points) and Marc Gasol (6 points) did their best to keep the Grizzlies afloat and close, but the Wizards were able to maintain both the lead and the momentum until the second quarter, when Markieff Morris took over the game.

Morris played every minute of the second quarter, and he seemingly effortlessly established his dominance on both ends of the floor. On offense, he took Gasol, JaMychal Green, and James Ennis, and put each of them in his own personal torture chamber. He posted them up, he took midrange jumpers, and he worked himself inside for layups and putback dunks, and on the defensive end he managed to block Tony Allen’s shot at the rim. For the majority of the second quarter, Coach Brooks entrusted Morris to be the sole starter in the lineup with bench players Tomas Satoransky, Trey Burke, Jason Smith, and Kelly Oubre, and he rewarded his coach with 10 points (on 5-of-9 shooting) and four rebounds. The biggest surprise: Morris seemed more than up to the challenge of physically guarding Gasol and Zach Randolph in the post, and he did so without accruing fouls in bunches as he is wont to do. Thanks to his yeoman effort, the Wizards led 66-51 at halftime, and it was totally within the realm of possibility to assume that the Wizards were headed toward their second consecutive blowout home victory.

But these were the Grizzlies, not the Trail Blazers.

In his postgame presser, Coach Brooks harped on how tough it is to play the Grizzlies because of their physicality, Mike Conley’s craftiness, and how difficult it is to guard them because the core of their team has played together for a substantial period of time. All of those factors were on display in the third quarter. The Grizzlies held the Wizards to 31 percent shooting and just two fast-breaks points after surrendering 10 in the first half. Wall and Morris felt the clamps, and scored just two and four points respectively.

The Grizzlies trimmed the lead down to seven points, but despite their increased intensity and as bad as the Wizards shot the ball, each of the starters found a way to score to give the team a bit of breathing room. Morris drove for a dunk, Otto Porter stepped out of his comfort zone and hit a runner off the glass, and Bradley Beal—in what is becoming a welcome trend—eschewed an open 3-pointer and kept his dribble all the way to the basket where he did something fancy:

The fourth quarter began with both teams playing slow, methodical, foul-ridden basketball, and at one point both the Grizzlies and the Wizards went nearly three minutes without scoring a basket. Eventually the Grizzlies cut the lead the to six, until Porter and Jason Smith produced one of the more important moments in the quarter.

First Otto Porter hit a wide-open 3 to put the Wizards up nine points, then Jason Smith blocked a JaMychal Green jumper and Porter grabbed the rebound. The Wizards offense stalled a bit on the next possession, and Porter was forced to take a 28-footer with just one second left on the shot clock, but he nailed the shot much to Steve Buckhantz’s delight:

https://twitter.com/WashWizards/status/821902406543818752

And that was the ebb and flow of the last five minutes of the fourth quarter—it almost felt like a two-on-two game. Porter or Wall would hit a big shot to stretch the game nearly out of reach, then Conley or Gasol would come right back with a big shot of their own which kept the game close and the Wizards uncomfortable. After 80-year-old Vince Carter hit a 3-point shot to cut the lead to three, the Wizards inbounded and the referees granted the Grizzlies a jump ball despite the fact that Gasol’s arms were draped over Beal’s back. The Grizzlies, somehow, had an opportunity to send the game to overtime. John Wall rotated over to Mike Conley, who scuttered toward the right corner, which left James Ennis wide open for a 3-pointer at the top of the key, which just missed.

Wall was an All-Star with 25 points and 13 assists, and Otto Porter—who Coach Fizdale called a “Swiss Army knife” because of his versatility—had a career-high six 3-pointers en route to 25 points and seven assists. Beal, who after the game observed that the Grizzlies (led by Tony Allen) were face guarding, double-teaming and intentionally trying to prevent him from touching the ball, was held to just 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting. Morris (17 points) and the mercurial bench, which scored 18 (led by Jason Smith’s 8), more than picked up the slack.

After the game, Coach Brooks was asked to reflect on what he liked about his team at the offical halfway point of the season (the Wizards are 22-19), but his answer could have easily been a summary of the second half of the game against the Grizzlies:

“We kept battling and figuring out ways to get better—we’re tweaking and tinkering with the lineup, the starters mixing with some of the guys coming off of the bench. Some of our younger players have really done a good job of developing and staying with it when they’re not playing. It can be tough on you mentally, but I think our staff has done a good job to keep them engaged and keep them developing.

“I think Kelly has made some strides. He’s taken a few steps forward [and] taken a step back, but the step back he takes, he doesn’t get frustrated and takes another step. He always seems to bounce back and come back. Otto has, I think, developed into the most consistent shooter in the league from the three. Every night it seems like he has it. And John and Brad, I like the way they’re playing and leading. March [Marcin Gortat] has done a good job. I think we’re playing much better because we’re really buying into each other, and I think when you do that, teams have trouble beating us.”

The Wizards’ winning ways have cured everything—everything except their ability to win on the road, that is. As magical as the 13-game winning streak at home has been, a loss tonight against the New York Knicks in front of a national TNT audience would deflate some of the momentum the Wizards have built.

Luckily for the Wizards, Gortat, the elder statesmen of the team, is there to provide perspective: “We aren’t getting excited. We’ve been in this situation where we’ve been minus-five, under .500. We just have to focus and play and now we have to get some wins on the road.”

And now, more Wizards’ fanciness courtesy of John F. Wall:

 

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.