The road-tripping Wizards survived a John Wall injury scare, but not their own scuffling offense or the Grizzlies newest addition. Washington scored only 46 points over the final three quarters and decisively lost the rebounding battle to Memphis in an 85-76 loss on Friday night, its third straight defeat.
During the recent winning stretch, the Wizards (11-34) frequently finished with five or six double figure scorers. Against Memphis, just one as Nene scored 14 points. Mike Conley, one of five Grizzlies' with at least 11 points, finished with 18. Former Piston Tayshaun Prince, part of the Rudy Gay deal, had 14 points his first game with Memphis (30-16), which led the entire fourth quarter.
In the second quarter, it appeared another injury to the face of the Wizards franchise would trump any result, though Wall played in the second half
With less than four minutes remaining in the second quarter and the ball out top, Wall drove straight through the teeth of the Grizzlies defense. Following contact, the point guard crumpled to the ground, writhing in pain while clutching his left shoulder. Moments later Wall stood up, walked to the locker room with athletic trainer Eric Waters and did not return in the quarter. Washington led 40-39 at halftime.
The initial diagnosis was a strained left shoulder with his return questionable, though Wall wound up starting the third quarter. The point guard finished with nine points, including his first 3-pointer of the season, plus seven rebounds and six assists.
Wall also had four of Washington's 16 turnovers. What was recently an effective free-flowing offense is now one highlighted by miscues and unproductive possessions. During the three-game skid, the Wizards are averaging 18 turnovers per game while shooting 42.9 percent from the floor.
The misses have come from near and far; Washington finished 5 of 20 from beyond the 3-point arc. The Wizards also only attempted three free throws.
Bradley Beal missed his second straight game with a sprained right wrist on the same day the guard picked up Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honors for January. Beal also received the award in December. The guard is also questionable for Saturday's game at San Antonio, which will wrap up the three-game road swing. Garrett Temple (three steals) again started in place of Beal.
Washington led 40-39 at halftime, but the Grizzlies moved ahead for good at 50-48 on Jerryd Bayless' free throws midway through the third quarter. Consecutive baskets by A.J. Price made the score 74-72 with 4:12 remaining, but the Wizards missed their next four shots. Prince, who finished 7 of 11 from the field, made two straight baskets of his own including a shot clock beating jumper, giving Memphis its largest lead of the quarter at 80-72.
Emeka Okafor finished with 10 rebounds and eight points. Nene matched Wall with a team-high six assists. Though the Wizards interior duo had their moments, Washington lost the rebounding battle 46-31 as Marc Gasol (13 points) led Memphis with 15 boards.
The Wizards have lost seven of the last eight to the Grizzlies, and haven't won in Memphis since 2004.
Clearly, Washington has lost momentum following the 7-3 stretch largely coinciding with Wall's return. At least Wall returned to this game. Now the Wizards must figure out how they return to winning games.