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Wizards close out road trip with visit to Memphis
One game remains on the Wizards’ marathon of a road trip, with stop five in Memphis to take on the Grizzlies on Tuesday night. After a brutal 2017-18 campaign, Memphis has their stars back in Mike Conley (team-best 19 points per game this season) and Marc Gasol (14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds) and enter Tuesday’s matchup with a 3-2 record. Washington is looking to turn things around after a 1-5 start to the season, but will need to be sharp to beat a Grizzlies team that plays tough defense, doesn’t hurt themselves with turnovers and hasn’t yet lost at home early in the year.
FedEx Forum | 8:00 p.m. | NBC Sports Washington | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – John Wall, G – Bradley Beal, F – Otto Porter Jr., F – Jeff Green, C – Ian Mahinmi
Grizzlies: G – Mike Conley, G – Garrett Temple, F – Kyle Anderson, F – Jaren Jackson, C – Marc Gasol
Wizards: Dwight Howard (Gluteal Soreness – Out), Markieff Morris (Concussion Protocol – Out), Kelly Oubre Jr. (Illness - Gametime Decision)
Grizzlies: JaMychal Green (Broken Jaw – Out), Chandler Parsons (Right Knee Soreness – Out), Dillon Brooks (Right Foot Soreness – Probable)
Lately against the Grizz
Washington has won the last three meetings between the two teams, sweeping last year’s series with Memphis. The Wizards have only won in Memphis five times in 22 tries, and the game coming on the back-end of a long road trip certainly will pose an additional challenge.
It all comes down to defense
It’s only been six games, but Washington is understandably tired of talking about its defensive woes. The Wizards know that it comes down to collective effort and persistence for 48 minutes, and they’ll have another chance to put together a better effort Tuesday night. So far this season, the Grizzlies have posted an offensive rating of just 103.6 (26th in the NBA). That doesn’t mean they’re ineffective - Memphis defends exceptionally well themselves - but it is an opportunity for the Wizards to impose their pace on the game if they can be disruptive defensively. That will take a step forward in communication and chemistry, something Washington is still admittedly working through as they work in new teammates. The bottom line remains that Washington’s defensive rating of 114.5 (24th in the NBA) needs to get better for it to right the ship and start rattling off wins.
Speed it up
Speaking of pace, the Wizards play with the third-highest in the NBA at just over 107 possessions per game. Memphis is averaging just over 99 per game, making Tuesday night another game of fairly contrasting styles after Washington struggled against the Clippers. Despite their record, the Wizards have excelled at scoring off turnovers and on the fast break. It’s no coincidence, given that Washington has forced 18 turnovers per game so far, a mark that’s tied for 2nd best in the NBA. And while taking on the challenge defensively to get stops and create scoring chances is certainly an area for improvement, another big one is even simpler: make shots. This particularly goes for 3-point shooting, where the Wizards take the fifth-most 3-pointers in the NBA but have made just 31%, the third-worst mark in the league.
-Aside from Conley and Gasol, Grizzlies to watch include 2018 4th overall pick Jaren Jackson (13 points, 1.2 blocks per game) and former Wizards guard Garrett Temple (13.2 points per game).
-Otto Porter Jr. is only scoring 9.7 points per game early in the season, but he has an opportunity to really step up with Markieff Morris unavailable. The Wizards know Porter has the ability to be a lethal scorer, and he could find himself playing multiple positions Tuesday with plenty of opportunities to score.
-Kelly Oubre Jr. is scoring 14.5 points per game, shooting nearly 42% from deep and rebounding at a pace of 5.8 per game. All of those averages would blow away career-highs should they continue, and the fourth-year forward has been a bright spot and source of energy for the second unit. If Oubre plays tonight, he will be asked to do even more with Morris out.