The Washington Wizards were taking pride in their improvement on defense before getting routed in their last game. A matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies should give them another reminder of how bad they can be.
After suffering their largest margin of defeat in six years, the Wizards look to avenge one of their worst defensive performances of the season when they host the Grizzlies on Friday night.
Washington's 121-85 loss to Cleveland on Wednesday night was its worst defeat since falling 111-67 to New Jersey on Jan. 16, 2002.
"It was painful, bordering on embarrassing," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said.
Washington (22-18) had been enjoying one of its best stretches on defense this season, holding its previous nine opponents to 89.0 points per game en route to a 7-2 record. After a 102-84 win over Dallas on Monday, Jordan said his team was "being nastier and grittier defensively."
Although they are allowing an average of 97.1 points on the season, the Wizards have had stretches of inconsistency on defense. They surrendered more than 100 points in four straight games from Nov. 20-24, capped by a 124-118 loss to Memphis on Nov. 24.
The Grizzlies (12-30) shot 52.6 percent (41-for-78) from the field in that game, including 13-for-29 (44.8 percent) from 3-point range, as the Wizards allowed their most points this season. Washington's defense was almost nonexistent for much of the first half of Wednesday's game, with the Cavaliers shooting 74 percent from the floor in the first quarter and hovering around 60 percent until just before the half.
Washington was no better on offense. Caron Butler, averaging 21.5 points, had only 10, as did Antawn Jamison.
Jamison, who is averaging 21.3 points a contest, had 41 in November's matchup with the Grizzlies and is averaging 28.7 in his last seven against them.
Memphis rookie Juan Carlos Navarro had 28 points against the Wizards. Navarro was picked by Washington in the second round of the 2002 NBA draft, but spent his career overseas before the Grizzlies traded a future first-round pick for the rights to him this season.
The 27-year-old guard has been strong off the bench for Memphis, averaging 10.7 points while shooting 41.5 percent from 3-point range. He's often used to spell Rudy Gay, who leads the Grizzlies with 19.4 points per game.
Gay had a team-high 20 points in a 112-85 loss to Orlando on Wednesday night as he tied a career high with four 3-pointers (4-for-4). The second-year swingman, who will compete in the dunk contest at All-Star weekend, is averaging 22.8 points and 9.0 rebounds in his last four contests.
Mike Miller, meanwhile, had 10 points against the Magic, and the Grizzlies fell to 0-18 when he doesn't score at least 17. He had 17 points in this season's first matchup with Washington.
"They are going to be ready to play," Miller said of the Wizards. "We just have to be ready to compete. We have to focus on being a little more consistent."
Memphis has split its last four games following a 2-11 slump.
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