Wizards vs. Grizzlies: An Ugly Win Is Still A Win | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards vs. Grizzlies: An Ugly Win Is Still A Win

Updated: December 14, 2017

Photo courtesy of @HoopDistrictDC

With 2:39 left in the game, Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol faked a 3-pointer, drove by Marcin Gortat (who bit on the fake big-time), slipped by Kelly Oubre, and dunked the ball home for an easy score–partly because of an illegal screen by JaMychal Green on Otto Porter. Gasol’s dunk capped off an 11-2 run by the Grizzlies and cut the Wizards’ lead to three points, 83-80.

As soon as Gasol’s dunk went through the basket, Wizards Coach Scott Brooks angrily called timeout and briskly walked towards Gortat at the middle of the court, seemingly ready to hurl expletives in his direction. But as he walked closer, Brooks saw that Gortat had his head down, and rather than yelling at him, Brooks clapped his hands and gave Gortat words of encouragement. After that timeout, the Wizards promptly went on a 7-0 run to push their lead to 91-80, which basically put the game out of reach.

That was the ebb and flow of the Wizards’ 93-87 victory over the Grizzlies.

The glass half-full crowd could look at the Wizards’ victory and be encouraged at John Wall’s return, Kelly Oubre’s strong fourth quarter, the six players in double figures, and the Wizards’ ability to win a tight game after losing the previous two close contests in Brooklyn and Los Angeles. That same crowd could also champion the Wizards’ ability to win without Markieff Morris (out with a knee, groin and hip) and Ian Mahinmi.

The glass half-empty folks had an equal amount of ammunition after last night’s game. The Grizzlies came into last night’s tilt without the services of Mike Conley and Tyreke Evans, and even though three-time All-Star Marc Gasol was in the starting lineup, he “only” had 15 points and 10 rebounds. Still, the Wizards constantly relinquished double-digit leads and their defensive effort–something Coach Brooks praised after the game–was basically just the Grizzlies’ consistent inability to hit open shots.

Surely Coach Brooks in his post-game presser, would be able to make some sense of the mercurial nature of his team, but even he seemed conflicted. His first post-game words to the media were, “I never watched paint dry but I’m assuming that’s what it looked like.” But a short time later, he mustered a bit of praise for his team’s ability to win under difficult circumstances:

“Just one of those games.  They always say the first game back from a long road trip…well that was the case tonight and we came away with a win. It was ugly but sometimes you have win those ugly games and close it out at the end.”

In fairness to Coach Brooks, there are definite reasons to be encouraged. Even if John Wall did not deliver his normal 20 and 10 performance–in fact he finished with 13 points and just four assists within the confines of his minutes restriction (he was supposed to play in the mid-20 minute range and he played 27). Over the last 4:40 of the second quarter, when the Grizzlies had whittled the Wizards lead down from 11 to two points, Wall scored nine of the Wizards final 12 points to push the lead up to 12 points. He scored via a layup, 3-point shot, pull-up jumper, and this crowd-pleasing dunk which brought the crowd to its feet.

Wall only scored two points in the second half, but he did have this block of Chandler Parsons with 1:09 left in the game which effectively ended any chance of a Grizzlies comeback (after the game, Wall admitted the blocked shot got him going):

Coach Brooks has praised the play of the bench the last nine games without John Wall, and the bench continued their strong play in Wall’s first game back.

Jason Smith contributed six points in the second quarter, and provided physicality in the absence of Markieff Morris by putting his body on Marc Gasol and mixing it up a bit with Mario Chalmers. Satoransky’s foul trouble prevented him from being as effective as he’d been on the Wizards’ road trip, but he was the first player Coach Brooks called off the bench and before he picked up his third foul with 10:15 left int he second quarter, the Wizards had a nine-point lead thanks to his point guard stewardship.

And Kelly Oubre, who had just two points in the first three quarters of play, played the role of closer in the fourth quarter with nine  points, which propelled the Wizards to 33 points in the final stanza:


Despite the win, and reasons to cheer, there are also plenty of reasons for Coach Brooks and the rest of the coaching staff to worry and pull all of the remaining hairs out of their respective heads. Even though the bench is playing well as a collective unit, Tim Frazier has seemingly been demoted in favor of Satoransky, since he played just five minutes after starting all nine Wall-less games. And even though Brooks said that no one should be complaining about their lack of playing time in his post-game presser, Frazier’s reaction to his demotion could possibly disrupt team chemistry.

And speaking of team chemistry, if and when Mahinmi’s health increases, will Coach Brooks increase his minutes or will he continue to allow the more versatile Jason Smith to play significant minutes? Up to this point, Brooks has favored Mahinmi but  his recent decision to play Satoransky over Frazier means that Brooks appears to be open to stepping out of his comfort zone for the good of the team.

Even if Brooks has an open mind in regards to his rotation, he will still have to coax consistent individual efforts out of Gortat and Morris, and team efforts on the defensive end of the floor. The Grizzlies shot an abysmal 27.8 percent in the first half of basketball, and still stayed within 12 points of the Wizards. And in the second half, this makeshift Grizzlies crew of Gasol, Andrew Harrison (20 points and seven assists), JaMychal Green (15 points and 15 rebounds) and a clearly diminished Chandler Parsons (12 points) still mustered enough offensive wizardry to consistently stay within striking distance until the very end of the game.

The Wizards’ next two games are against the Clippers (who they lost to in controversial fashion) and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who just happen to be the defending Eastern Conference champion. Both teams have a bit more firepower than these Grizzlies, and will require a greater offensive effort out of Wall and Beal, a more consistent defensive presence, and continued excellence from the bench.

Other Bullets:

Coach Brooks is too nice of a guy to name the players who aren’t playing well, but by process of elimination, it isn’t too difficult to figure out that he’s unhappy with the play of Markieff Morris. As a starter, Morris played just 34 combined minutes against the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers. Prior to last night’s game against the Grizzlies, no mention was made of any Morris injury–in fact, Morris’s pre-game workout was done with the intensity of a player who fully expected to play in the game. But when the Wizards starting lineups were released approximately 40 minutes before tip-off, Morris was a scratch with what was listed as right hip soreness and Mike Scott started in his stead. When Coach Brooks was asked about that after the game, he said that Morris had mentioned that both his ankle and his groin were sore prior to the game, but he said nothing about the hip. That conflict, combined with Brooks decreased usage of Morris’s services added up to a bit of fishy smell where Morris is concerned. Was Morris legitimately hobbled or were his minor injuries hyped up in a major way to mask his uninspired play as of late? And more importantly, can his services be relied upon against the Clippers on Friday and the Cavaliers on Sunday?

Before the game Coach Brooks implied that despite Satoransky’s strong nine-day stretch (8.3 points, 4.3 assists and just two turnovers), his increased playing time had been given (due to Wall’s absence) and not earned. But at the 5:10 mark of the first quarter, Brooks did not sub in Tim Frazier, who had started the nine Wall-less games–he chose Satoransky which only added fuel to the #FreeSato movement. Sato was saddled with foul trouble throughout the game and finished with just three points, two assists and four fouls in 15 minutes of play, but he was more productive than his colleague Tim Frazier who played just 5:20 scoreless minutes.

Coach Brooks may have felt like Satoransky hadn’t quite earned more playing time but in his post-game comments, it was quite clear that Satoransky felt differently:

“I felt good about it being the first guy coming off the bench. I didn’t play very well today but it was good recognition after those [road] games we had.”

When I asked Sato if he knew he was going to be the first player off the bench he said, “No, you never know that so I was like just not expecting anything and just being ready and obviously it’s a good feeling you know being the first guy off the bench.”



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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.