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Wizards' pace silences Grizzlies 100-91: Five takeaways

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Wizards' pace silences Grizzlies 100-91: Five takeaways

Unlike when these teams met a week ago, when the Wizards were lifeless in a 17-point defeat, they blitzed the Memphis Grizzlies to stretch their win streak to a season-high three games and move closer to .500.

Garrett Temple, who set career-highs in the previous two games, led the Wizards (13-14) with 20 points on 8-for-17 shooting. Five other players reached double-figures with Ramon Sessions (16), John Wall (14), Marcin Gortat  (12), Jared Dudley (11) and Kelly Oubre (10).

Wall also had a game-high 14 assists after setting a career-high with 19 Monday. Gortat had a game-high 12 rebounds and had plenty of help neutralizing the physical Grizzlies (16-15). Temple and Dudley had six rebounds and Oubre seven as the Wizards held a 44-35 overall edge.

Mike Conley was the Grizzlies' only offense early. He scored 15 of his game-high 21 in the first half. Jeff Green had 19 and Zach Randolph 16.

  • Memphis got out to a 6-0 lead, but the Wizards went on a 12-2 run because they're still sticking to their pace-and-space principles. Temple's first basket came off a push from a made basket as did Wall's first bucket also came after a made basket. And they did it while holding their second consecutive opponent to less than 100 points.

  • Sessions' relentless play continues. If there's not a path to the rim he creates one, doesn't give up his dribble and forces whistles to get to the foul line to manufacture his offense. This has been a glaring weakness for the Wizards as a whole, particularly with Wall who believes he doesn't get the benefit of the doubt on calls on drives. Sessions, who is no Wall, gets them because he goes at defenders and doesn't fall away or try to avoid contact. He looks for it and gets rewarded. With the Wizards' offense in a drought, Sessions made a three-pointer for an 84-70 lead but then drew a whistle to make something out of nothing in traffic. Sessions went to the foul line for make both shots and an 86-72 lead. Though he comes off the bench, Sessions led the Wizards in foul shooting with six attempts.

  • Mario Chalmers picked up three fouls in a 40-second span, the last one for bowling over Kris Humphries, and lost his cool with game officials. He was assessed two technical fouls -- so was his coach, Dave Joerger -- and ejected at 10:11 of the second quarter. When the episode was over and foul shots taken, Washington led 36-18.

  • In his third start, Oubre made his first two three-point shots on wide-open looks created by Wall He's 6-for-6 in his last three games. This is something Otto Porter, who missed his third game in a row with a bruised left thigh, hadn't been doing even before his injury. Oubre's mechanics on the long ball looks good every time and he battled Memphis' bigs inside. His athleticism, length and quickness negated their size as he had a twisting putback in the paint in the fourth when the Wizards really needed a basket to make the score 88-75. Again, however, Oubre picked up too many fouls early. He was hit with his fourth less than two minutes into the third quarter on a cheap reach-in on Marc Gasol, who was already going up and couldn't be stopped, when he should've just let the big man go. 

  • Even in his advanced age, Tony Allen is a difficult matchup and he hawked Wall for most of the game. Wall shot just 5-for-18 as he was there to contest almost every shot. It allowed the smaller Conley to be fresh on the offensive end where he was desperately needed. With the Wizards trying to hold off a late charge, Wall walked the ball up the court and didn't meet resistance and hit an in-rhythm three to all but seal it 98-85 with 3:46 left.

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John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

The Wizards in recent years have made a habit of trying to speak things into existence and then not having them actually exist. They have talked the talk and then sometimes haven't walked the walk.

A few instances come to mind, including Bradley Beal saying of the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers that "they didn't want to see us" in the playoffs. Beal also said in November that the Washington was the best team in the East, just hours before James scored 57 points in the Wizards' building.

John Wall has made similar proclomations in the past, usually about himself, including how he is the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. Now, these statements were all relatively normal for professional athletes who pride themselves in always feeling like they are the best player on the floor or the field. It's part of the mindset that makes them who they are.

But when those statements are made and then not backed up, they can be tough to defend, and especially for a Wizards team which last season seemed to overlook the lesser teams and suffered a down year because of it.

Wall insists all that is about to change. In his 1-on-1 interview with Chris Miller on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, Wall said the message this year will be much different, much more muted than it has been in the past.

"We want to go out with a different mindset and a different focus. We're not trying to go in and think we're a team that has already established something and got respect from people. We have to earn that respect and that means going out and competing every night against the good teams or the bad teams," he said.

That doesn't mean Wall isn't confident. His belief in himself hasn't wavered and, in fact, he may believe in his team more now than ever. That's because he is happy with the offseason the front office has produced.

They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green in free agency, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. All should help the Wizards improve between Howard representing an upgrade at starting center and the others providing much-needed depth.

When Wall was asked by Chris if this is the most complete team he has played with in Washington, Wall left no doubts.

"Yeah, for sure. I definitely think so," he said. "I think it gives us the opportunity where we don't have to play as many minutes. That's the key. At the end of the year, you kind of fall short because you're fatigued. Nobody uses that as an excuse. You play and try to get into the best shape possible. But if you're playing 24 minutes, the whole half, and then 24 minutes and the whole half, you kind of get tired at some point. I think those guys can take a little of the burden and pressure off of us at times."

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

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