The Washington Wizards had their winning streak end in their last game, but may have found their new go-to player with star guard Gilbert Arenas injured.
Caron Butler tries to continue his strong play and get the Wizards (6-6) back on track Saturday night when they face the slumping Memphis Grizzlies.
Arenas, who was the team's leading scorer with 28.4 points per game last season and 22.4 through the eight games he played in 2007-08, is out at least three months after undergoing left knee surgery earlier this week. Butler has raised his game since Arenas' exit, scoring 65 points in two games and posting his first career triple-double in a loss to Golden State on Friday.
Butler had 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in a 123-115 defeat that snapped the Wizards' six-game winning streak. The small forward has scored 20 or more points in eight of Washington's 12 games and is shooting 51.3 percent from the field, well above his career mark of 43.8 percent entering this season.
"This basketball team knows how to win without our super-duper-star,'' insisted Butler, whose team is 3-1 without Arenas. "Myself and Antawn (Jamison) as the leaders on this team just got to continue to step it up and continue to pull out-of-body performances out of a lot of guys.''
Jamison had 30 points and 12 rebounds for his second consecutive double-double and seventh of the season. He and Butler have each played more than 40 minutes in each of the last two games, but it's not known if they can maintain that pace while logging such heavy minutes early in the season.
Butler has averaged 12.9 points in 11 lifetime games versus the Grizzlies, but scored 41 in last season's two games. Jamison has scored 19.2 points per game in 27 contests and netted 26 in last season's 116-101 home victory.
While the Wizards appear to have gained a sense of identity despite the absence of their star, the Grizzlies (3-9) continue to search for their own. Memphis absorbed a 101-88 defeat Friday at San Antonio, its fifth in six games and fifth consecutive road loss overall.
Juan Carlos Navarro scored 16 to lead four players in double figures, but Memphis suffered inside without 7-footer Darko Milicic, who missed his fourth consecutive game with a sprained thumb. Power forward Pau Gasol had 12 points and six rebounds, but received little help in containing Spurs counterpart Tim Duncan, who sank 14 of 17 shots and finished with 28 points.
"Darko did a great job in the first game of keeping them out of the paint,'' admitted Gasol.
It is the second straight season the Grizzlies have started 3-9.
Leading scorer Rudy Gay is expected to play despite suffering a finger injury since X-rays taken after the game came back negative.
The home team won each game last season, but the Grizzlies had won the previous three. Washington has not won at Memphis since a 103-91 victory Nov. 3, 2004.
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