Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images
Wizards face Grizzlies Sunday night at Capital One Arena
Sunday night, the Wizards (18-32) meet the Grizzlies (26-26) at 6:00 P.M. at Capital One Arena in the teams’ second matchup of the season. Washington is coming of a buzzer-beating, one-point win over the Mavericks on Friday while Memphis is coming off a loss to the Sixers. With the win over the Mavericks, the Wizards have now won six of their last eight home games.
“The guys are confident at home.,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said Saturday after practice. “We’re playing better at home. We want to keep playing the way we have been at home. This is always a funky time for NBA teams. The All-Star break is right around the corner, but we still have three more games to play and we want to finish strong before the break.”
Capital One Arena | 6:00 P.M. | NBCSW | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Ish Smith, G – Bradley Beal, F – Isaac Bonga, F – Rui Hachimura, C – Ian Mahinmi
Grizzlies: G – Ja Morant, G – Dillon Brooks, F – Kyle Anderson, F – Jaren Jackson Jr., C – Jonas Valanciunas
Wizards: Thomas Bryant (right foot soreness – out), John Wall (left Achilles rehab – out)
Grizzlies: Grayson Allen (left hip injury – out), Justise Winslow (back injury – out)
Newly acquired Robinson set to Memphis
On Sunday night, Wizards fans will get their first look at newly acquired guard Jerome Robinson, who joined the team Thursday in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers. Robinson, playing in his second season out of Boston College, saw limited action in his year and half with LA, but was a highly rated prospect before going 13th overall in the 2018 NBA Draft. Robinson averaged just 11 minutes per game with the Clippers, but has shown, in spurts, the ability to score from all over the court. Earlier this season he hit five threes on his way to 21 points in a win over the Hawks and is shooting 40.7% between 10-19 feet this season.
“He’s a player we were attracted to at Boston College,” Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard said Thursday. “He’s a 3-point threat, but he’s also somebody that can put it on the deck. He’s versatile – plays both positions…He’s athletic. He’s a hard-nosed kid. I think he’s going to help us a lot – adding depth to our team, athleticism for sure.”
Also acquired on deadline day was Shabazz Napier, a sixth-year point guard who came by way of the Denver Nuggets. Napier spent less than 24 hours with the Nuggets after being dealt to Denver in a deal with Minnesota, where he played all of his 36 games this season. Napier made his Wizards debut Friday against the Mavericks, scoring 14 points in 18 minutes, most of which came from beyond the arc. He shot 4-6 (.667) from three, tying his season high for 3-pointers made.
Napier clicking early with new teammates
The Wizards’ rotation has undergone a number of changes in the last few games – adding Napier and Robinson via trade and ushering Rui Hachimura and Moritz Wagner back into the lineup after each missing 20-plus games due to injury. Scott Brooks will likely use the next few games leading up to the All-Star break to experiment with different lineup combinations. Based on the win over Dallas, Napier’s fit won’t cause much stress. Napier’s efficient 14-point night is what pops off the box score, but his fit next to some of Washington’s most important offensive weapons might be what matters most. In the nine minutes in which Napier and Bradley Beal shared the court, the Wizards had a 176.5 offensive rating. In his 12 minutes with Wagner – a 158.3 offensive rating. And in 18 minutes with both Davis Bertans and Troy Brown Jr., the Wizards had a 144.4 offensive rating.
“He’s a hard-nosed guy that will do all the right things,” Sheppard said of Napier after the deadline. “He’s got a winning pedigree and I think he’ll fit in pretty seamlessly for us.”
If Friday’s game was any indication, Sheppard appears to have been correct.
Grizzlies rolling behind Morant and Jackson Jr.
Despite a loss on Friday night to the Sixers, the Grizzlies come to D.C. playing some of their best basketball of the season. Memphis is 13-4 since January 4, including wins over the Clippers, Rockets, Nuggets and Mavericks. In that time, Memphis ranks sixth in defensive rating (108.1) and seventh in net rating (5.0). The Grizzlies are led by the young duo of Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr., each of whom average 17.4 points per game. Morant, drafted second overall in the 2019 NBA Draft and already one of the most athletically impressive guards in the league, is responsible for some of the most jaw-dropping highlights of the season. Morant’s up-tempo style has helped lead the Grizzlies to the fifth fastest pace I the league (103.4).
“They’re playing well,” Brooks said. “They’re in the playoff chase. They have dynamic players. [Ja] Morant is obviously close to being an All-Star in his rookie year. They have a lot of really good players that we have to do a good job defensively on and take away a lot of their paint points.”