Wizards dominated by Valanciunas, drop second half opener

Looking for their first win in Memphis since 2018, the Washington Wizards started the second half of their season against the Grizzlies. Washington, whose last loss was to the Grizzlies themselves, looked to rebound against the young Memphis team. In the contest last week, turnovers plagued the Wizards and lead to an ugly loss. The Wizards looked to take better care of the basketball tonight.

Washington got off to a slow start on offense, but the Wizard defense came out strong as Mo Wagner protected the rim at will. Wagner, who normally is a decent three-point shooter started off slow missing his first three attempts. All of which were wide-open looks. Memphis began to build an early lead by scoring consistently in the paint. Memphis is a team known to score a lot in the paint with guys like Ja Morant, and Jonas Valanciunas. The Wizards needed an adjustment to negate the Grizzlies’ offense.

Bradley Beal also got off to a struggle in the first. Beal’s first points didn’t even come til foul shots with 4 minutes left in the first. One of Beal’s worst offensive games came against Memphis last week. Dylan Brooks did an impeccable job of locking down Beal last time out. So far, Beal once again looked to be in for a tough night scoring.

Memphis was incredibly hot in the first. The Grizzlies shot 15/24 in the first, opposed to the Wizards who shot only 10/27. Memphis took a 35-26 lead into the first quarter’s end.

Memphis picked up right where they left off to start the second, knocking down their first 3 shots. Westbrook so far was keeping the Wizards in it. Westbrook was doing a nice job attacking the basket and keeping the Grizzlies on their heals.

Washington continued to struggle from the floor which lead to multiple easy transition scores for Memphis. Morant runs a fast-break unlike any guard in the league, and he was killing Washington in transition. Memphis built up to a 15-point lead midway through the second quarter. Beal was still held without a field goal and 0-6 to this point.

A scary moment for Wizards fans occurred when Beal bumped knees with a Memphis defender and appeared to be shaken up. Beal walked it off and continued to play in the game. A definite sigh of relief for Washington players and fans. One possession later, Beal finally scored his first bucket from the floor.

The Grizzlies lead continued to grow from a 16-4 run caused by multiple miscues by the Wizards. Already down 19, Washington couldn’t afford to be making any more mistakes if they were going to get back into the game.

With just two minutes left in the half, the Wizards went on an 8-0 run to help cut into the Grizzlies lead. Washington took a once 19 point deficit, and now was now heading into the half only down 5. Westbrook led the way with 14 so far. Beal still had only one bucket on nine attempts and 10 points.

The Wizards picked up where they left off to start the second half. The Wizards kept the Memphis lead small and began to cut into it more and more during the third. With 7:26 left in the third, Washington finally regained the lead which they hadn’t had since they were up 2-0.

Great news for Beal, Dylan Brooks got into foul trouble with 4 fouls in the third. Brooks had been guarding Beal tight all night long. Now was time for Beal to end his drought. Nevertheless, Valanciunas was killing the Wizards inside. Whether it was getting second chance points, dunking over defenders, or defending the rim, Valanciunas was doing it all for the Grizzlies.

The Wizards lead was short lived. Memphis used a 16-6 run to take a 9 point advantage heading into the final quarter. Beal was still being clamped up and hadn’t found his rhythm offensively.

Memphis didn’t shoot many threes on the night, however, they made the ones they did take count. Early in the fourth they were 6/11 from three and holding onto a 10-point lead.

Throughout the fourth, Washington continued to give up breaks in transition off shots they were missing that frankly were just not good shots. Bad shot selection leads to bad play. The Grizzlies were continuing to grow their lead with time running low.

The Grizzlies had 20 second chance points which proved to be a major factor in this game. Washington allowed to many second chance opportunities for the Memphis scorers. Those guys are too talented to let them get that many chances.

Memphis continued to pour it on as they completed their sweep of the Wizards. Memphis defeated the Wizards 127-112.

Beal finished the night shooting just 6-22 and 1-8 from three. Both times out against Memphis, Beal was held in check by those young scrappy Memphis defenders. Jonas Valanciunas proved to be too much finishing with 29 points and 20 rebounds. Hard to win when a guy puts up numbers like that. Valanciunas had his way with the Wizards all night. Memphis shot hot all night as well knocking down 50.5% of their shot attempts.

The Wizards were too soft in the paint tonight and were badly exposed defensively by the Grizzlies paint presence. Washington needs to keep moving forward now 14-21. This second half is vital, and many tough teams lie ahead. Wizards will face top seed competing Philadelphia on Friday. A tough challenge lies ahead for this Wizards team. Who will rise to the occasion?

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