The last two games for the Wizards may not have been winnable without Garrett Temple's outbursts. He's on the roster because of his defense but has evolved into a better scorer and three-point shooter in a pinch.
Tonight, he will have to help carry the load on a perimeter that has been hit with injuries to Bradley Beal, Gary Neal and Otto Porter when the Memphis Grizzlies come to Verizon Center (CSN, CSNmidatlantic.com and NBC Sports Live Extra, 6:30 p.m. ET).
John Wall, as he was when Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza had career seasons, is the set-up man. He had a career-high 19 assists in Monday's 113-99 win vs. the Sacramento Kings. Temple posted a career-high 23 points two nights after first accomplishing the feat with 21 in a 109-101 win vs. the Charlotte Hornets. And despite a seven-man rotation, the quicker pace wasn't abandoned. It assisted Temple getting out in transition for easy baskets.
"It's John Wall so guys are going to key on him. Things as little as him getting the rebound and pushing it, guys looking at him and he's able to kick it up to me for a one- or two-dribble layup," said Temple, who scored 10 of his points in the fourth quarter with Sacramento as the Wizards broke open a score that was tied at 84. "We understand they're going to key on John. I'm going to be sitting in the corner, spaced out and be ready to shoot the ball. With the second unit we don't have a guy to key on so guys have to try to create offense for themselves. When you have John it's easier to play off him."
This is true for just about anybody in the NBA, be it Temple or a rookie like Kelly Oubre. Play with better creators and shots will come easier. Temple is 7 of 13 from three-point range in the last two games. After shooting 37.5% from long range last season, he has dipped to 31%. His 6.3 points per game average is a career-high.
It doesn't matter if Temple plays 42 minutes or spot minutes like he did to begin the season. The 6-6 shooting guard is always prepared and doesn't complain about his role. He also does the dirty work that doesn't get credited in a boxscore, and he combines with Wall to make a formidable defensive tandem up top.
"Temp didn't play that many minutes before. Temp is a hard-working, hustle player whose now getting his time and showing you that he should play more," said Jared Dudley, in his first year in Washington. "We have to be a scrappy-type team. We're not a pretty team where you know we're going to throw these lobs and stuff like that. We have to be able to get charges, throw-aheads, get us to the free throw line is crucial. Temp, I keep saying his name, is providing a huge lift for us."
Praise like that for Temple is common in the locker room. He plays for the league minimum, just over $1 million for a veteran of his experience. He's what's called a "glue guy," a sturdy ingredient required to hold the other parts together.
"When he’s in the starting lineup he’s going to get easy shots. He’s going to get the ball in transition," Wall said. "He doesn’t have to be the main scorer and guys are not worrying about him as much. That’s great for us because he’s able to lock down guys on the other end and also make open shots. With the second unit it’s a situation where he’s not getting those open looks or having those opportunities to attack as much. When a lot of guys are keying in on me in the pick-and-roll, he’s able to shoot them with confidence."
A favorite of coach Randy Wittman, Temple heard his message loud and clear.
"Witt said before last game, come out thinking this is going to be the best game you ever played and I’ve done that two games in a row. I had 21 last game," Temple said. "We needed it. With Gary Neal being out I needed to score, be a little more aggressive.
"I haven’t been shooting the ball great this year. Jared has been tremendous. But John is John. He’s going to create so much they’re going to stick to him especially since we’re so depleted. We just got to continue to be ready to shoot. Maybe the next few games we might be able to open up that paint a little bit more. … No way they’re going to continue to stay out with us with John creating havoc the way he is."