By: Jeremy Hyman
The Wizards return home after a four game road trip to host the Memphis Grizzlies tonight at Verizon Center (7:00 pm | TV: CSN | Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM). The Wiz lost to the Grizzlies, 85-76, back on February 1st in Memphis.
This may be the most grueling portion of the schedule for the Wizards as they return home for this one game and then head back out on the road to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder and Orlando Magic later this week. But, there are no excuses in the NBA and they must continue to play hard and try and rack up as many wins as possible in the final leg of the season.
The Grizzlies enter tonight's game having just lost one of their key cogs in the middle as Marc Gasol has been ruled out indefinitely with an abdominal tear. That's a big blow for a team that relies heavily on their post play and they will now look for guys like Ed Davis and Darrell Arthur to step up in his place.
Many wondered how the team would play after they dealt their star Rudy Gay back in late January, but they have responded by going 18-7 since the trade and seem to have kept their identity as a tough defensive team. One of the reasons they continue to be so tough on defense is because of their backcourt of Mike Conley and Tony Allen. Conley leads the NBA with 2.3 steals per game and Allen may be the best on-ball defender in the NBA. Allen does all the dirty work and is a player who helps a team win games in ways that don't always show up in the box score. Jerryd Bayless will also come off the bench and provide a spark, as he scored a season-high 30 points in the Grizzlies win over the Celtics on Saturday.
The Wizards went 2-2 on their road trip with an impressive come-from-behind win in Los Angeles on Friday night. They are now 20-16 since John Wall returned from injury which is good for the fifth best record in the East over that span. They may be shorthanded again tonight as Bradley Beal, A.J. Price, and Trevor Ariza are all questionable with various injuries and ailments. However, on Saturday night, their absence provided the opportunity for Cartier Martin to score a career-high 23 points against the Warriors. He may be relied upon again to provide a spark off the Wizards bench.
The last time these two teams met, the Wizards were held to just 76 points, including a 10 point second quarter. Nene was the only Wizard to reach double figures as he led the team with 14 points. The Wizards got off to a nice start in that game and scored 30 points in the first quarter and held a one point halftime lead, but could not muster enough offense in the second half to come away with a road win. Against a good defensive team like Memphis, they will need to move the ball on offense and value each possession. John Wall will need to manage the pace of the game and not force any bad passes because the Grizzlies will make you pay and deflect balls in the passing lanes.
This could be a grind-it-out kind of game and the first one to 80 could be the team that comes out on top.
The action kicks off at 7pm.
John Wall is averaging 22.3 points, 9.5 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game in his last eight games. He is shooting .549 from the field, .714 from three-point range and .848 from the free throw line during this stretch. Wall was forced out of Saturday night's game in Oakland after he picked up his second technical foul, so look for Wall to come out tonight with some extra energy as he tries to lead the Wizards back in the win column.
Mike Conley leads the NBA in steals and can be a menace on defense, but also provides the Grizzlies with a good amount of offense as he averaging a career-high 13.9 ppg this season. He has started all 67 games for the Grizzlies and will be running the show for them again tonight as they try and get a road win in Washington.
In the below clip, John Wall reads the play and gets the steal and the slam.
In this clip, Wall hangs in the air for the block.