The Washington Wizards lost to the Memphis Grizzlies 128-111 on Saturday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down...
1. It was just over a week ago the Wizards had their best win of the season against the Sixers. Saturday night was one of their worst.
They went into Memphis to play an emerging, but struggling team and got their you-know-whats handed to them. The Wizards jumped out to a 13-6 lead in the first, then lost the momentum and never got it back.
By halftime the Wizards were down 15. That deficit grew to 24 in the second half.
The Wizards ended up losing by 17, but it wasn't as close as the score would suggest. It was Washington's seventh loss in eight games.
Maybe it was the three-day layoff. Perhaps they weren't sharp. Whatever the reason, that was a bad one.
2. As this game went on, it became very obvious that Memphis' gameplan was to make sure Davis Bertans didn't beat them. They swarmed the Latvian Laser on the perimeter and guarded him well beyond the three-point line.
Bertans was held to nine points on 2-for-9 shooting and 1-for-6 from three. His one three was a quick release shot from about 27 feet out. Soon after that, the defense was picking him up at halfcourt.
This type of treatment was inevitable for Bertans, who has been the biggest surprise of the Wizards' season so far. He has turned into one of the league's best three-point shooters and the second-best scorer on the team. Teams now know it.
3. Rui Hachimura's college teammate stole the show in this one. Brandon Clarke, who played last year with Hachimura at Gonzaga, put on an impressive scoring display highlighted by a series of vicious dunks. He measured a max vertical of 40 1/2 inches and used every inch of it to dunk all over the Wizards.
He had 19 points in the first half, including an alley-oop where his head was level with the rim and a poster dunk on the fastbreak that nearly ended Ian Mahinmi's career.
Clarke had 25 points on 11-for-14 shooting with four rebounds. Coming out of the draft, he was considered a good defensive player but too old (he's 23) and too raw offensively without a three-point shot.
So far, he's looking like a major steal at the 21st overall pick.
4. The Grizzlies might not be good, but they are fun to watch and have a nice young core with Clarke alongside Jaren Jackson Jr. and Morant. Jackson is a unicorn at 6-foot-11 with the ability to drive coast-to-coast and hit threes. Morant is a force of nature, able to play well above the rim despite being 6-foot-3.
Morant nearly pulled off one of the most disrespectful plays in basketball on Bradley Beal. He tried to pull a "Michael Jordan on Ron Mercer" by snatching the ball off the glass with two hands. But he clipped the rim and was called for goaltending. Still, it was impressive because of how high he got in the air.
Memphis has an exciting young team. They might contend for a playoff spot next year with a good offseason. If they were in the East, they could really make some noise.
5. The Wizards were without several key regulars once again. Isaiah Thomas missed his fifth straight game with a left calf strain and Moe Wagner was out with his left ankle sprain after playing in the past four games.
They did get back Garrison Mathews, though. The two-way guard played in his first game since Oct. 25 after sitting out due to a stress reaction in his right leg. It was Mathews' third professional game, but he made his first shot - a corner three. It happened to come in his home state of Tennessee.
Mathews might actually get some minutes in the next few weeks because he is the second-best shooting guard on the roster with Jordan McRae out due to a finger injury.
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