The Washington Wizards took on the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night. Memphis entered the game having won 13 of their last 17 games. The Wizards, who had won five of their last ten, looked like the better team out of the gate.
It feels important to say upfront that despite being close, this was not an aesthetically pleasing game. For the night, the Grizzlies shot 5-of-32 from three-point range and the Wizards were only slightly better at 7-of-33. Memphis shot better overall at 42.2-percent, however. Washington was a putrid 34.7-percent from the field.
Once again, Rui Hachimura was aggressive early. He had six points in only four minutes of action in the first quarter. He hit a three-pointer early and has looked a lot more comfortable from that range since returning from injury.
The biggest takeaway from the first quarter was the defense. The Wizards did a good job of disrupting the Memphis offense and Ian Mahinmi had a lot to do with that. He clogged up the lane and prevented Ja Morant from doing Ja Morant things. Morant had two points in the quarter. The Wizards were up 30-18 after one.
In the second quarter, the defense largely regressed to the mean. Fortunately for Washington, Beal and Hachimura kept up the offensive pressure. Beal had 7 more points to finish the half with 13. Hachimura had 10 points and 4 rebounds.
Morant finally got things going a little bit and went into the halftime break with 13 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 assists. Kyle Anderson may not stand out on the box-score but he made a lot of winning plays for the Grizzlies. Despite the Grizzlies’ improved play, Washington still led 55-47 at the half.
Bertans-Wagner, the dynamic duo
The third quarter looked like it was going to be more of the same. Memphis kept trying to make runs but Washington always seemed to have an answer. Moritz Wagner and Davis Bertans were especially clutch late in the third quarter to keep Washington in front. The Bertans-Wagner duo had a couple of baskets in a row to carry the Wizards.
Wagner had 13 points and 7 rebounds in the first three quarters and was an active presence inside. After a largely quiet first half, Memphis forward Jaren Jackson Jr. started to wake up. He had 8 points and 3 rebounds in the third quarter alone and helped Memphis to make a late push.
In a match-up of stars, Beal had the scoring edge over Morant. Beal finished the third quarter with 21 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 assists. Morant had 17 points, 3 rebounds, and 7 assists. Most importantly, Beal’s team had the lead, 85-80.
Memphis made another run early in the fourth quarter but once again Bertans and Wagner did just enough to hold them off. On consecutive possessions, Wagner had an offensive rebound that led to free throws and Bertans hit a three-pointer.
Offense stalls, Wizards falter late
Unfortunately for the Wizards, the offense seemed to stall after that. Washington scored only 14 points in the fourth compared to 26 for Memphis. For a large stretch of the fourth, Scott Brooks went with a Napier-Beal-Robinson-Bertans-Hachimura lineup that seemed to give up at least one offensive rebound per possession. Washington gave up 13 offensive rebounds on the night and 6 of them were in the fourth quarter alone. Overall, the Memphis won the rebounding battle 62-50.
Beal did an admirable job trying to cover Morant down the stretch but Morant continued to find a way to make plays. Meanwhile, Beal and the Wizards struggled to finish over the Grizzlies’ length. Hachimura’s former Gonzaga teammate Brandon Clarke teamed with Jackson Jr. and Jonas Valanciunas to make life difficult for the Wizards’ offense.
Morant iced the game with a three-pointer with one minute to play which gave the Grizzlies a 105-96 lead. The final score ended up being 106-99 for Memphis. Morant finished the game with a 27 point, 10 rebounds, 10 assist triple-double.
Takeaways from tonight
Bradley Beal paced the Wizards with 26 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. Hachimura had 12 points and 11 rebounds, most of which came in the first half. Bertans finished with 15 points and 6 rebounds and Wagner had 19 points and 9 rebounds.
On paper, losing to a frisky Grizzlies team would not be a bad loss by any stretch. But losing a close game after leading for the majority of the night will likely cause the Wizards organization and fans alike to lose sleep.
Memphis improved to 27-26 and still sits in eighth place in the Western Conference. The Wizards drop to 18-33 and are 3 games back of the Magic for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Their next game is at home on Tuesday against the Chicago Bulls (19-35).