By Clay Bailey
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MEMPHIS, Tenn. _ Little by little, a smaller lineup is lifting the Memphis Grizzlies.
Marc Gasol had 24 points and 12 rebounds, Mike Conley finished with 18 points and 11 assists, and the Grizzlies beat the Washington Wizards 112-95 on Monday night.
Memphis has gone to a smaller lineup the last two games, meaning the removal of veterans Zach Randolph and Tony Allen from the starting five. While the Grizzlies blew a late lead Sunday night in a 100-97 loss in Miami, this performance was an example of the possibilities.
“It was the kind of game where we played really hard and really well,” Memphis coach Dave Joerger said. “We played for 48 minutes, and we haven’t played from the lead a lot this year.”
Washington’s only lead was a one-point edge in the first quarter. Memphis led by double digits the entire second half.
The Wizards are last in the NBA in 3-pointers allowed at 10.45 a game, and the Grizzlies benefited from that, shooting 56 per cent overall and 10 for 15 on 3s.
That caught the attention of Wizards coach Randy Wittman, who was disappointed in his team’s defence.
“Until we get a commitment to defend … we’re going to be on this roller coaster,” he said.
“Right now, our mindset is to outscore people. Our team isn’t made that way,” he said.
Matt Barnes scored 20 points for the Grizzlies and shot 4 for 5 on 3s. Courtney Lee and Jeff Green finished with 15 points each and Mario Chalmers had 12.
In the two games since the lineup change, Memphis has shot almost 59 per cent from the field.
“Guys are moving, setting screens, but we still have to play our pace,” Gasol said. “We’ve got to get used to (the offensive change), adapt and we’ve got to play.”
Gary Neal led the Wizards with 24 points. John Wall, the team’s leading scorer at over 20 per game, shot 2 of 11 and had six points.
Washington has lost three of four.
Memphis began the day shooting just 31 per cent on 3s, and improved on that mark.
“(The Grizzlies) were shooting very well,” said Wizards centre Marcin Gortat, who had 10 points and nine rebounds. “They made a lot of 3s, so I have no explanation.”
Wizards: Bradley Beal missed his third game with stress reaction in right leg. Beal’s career high 37 points came last season at Memphis. … F Otto Porter, who had a career-high 28 points in Washington’s victory over Dallas on Saturday, had two points.
Grizzlies: Conley’s 11 assists matched his season high. … Conley recorded his second double-double, while Gasol has six this season. … Memphis, which lost at Miami on Sunday night, is now 6-1 on the second nights of back-to backs.
JOB SECURITY: Before the game, Joerger characterized reports that his job was in jeopardy as “silliness.”
“In our society something is written (on social media) … and all of a sudden it creates a life of its own from some source.” After fielding several questions on the matter, he closed with a laugh saying: “I think I was good. I could go some more. What’s everybody getting all stressed for?”
HITTING A WALL: Wall had scored at least 26 points in five straight games, but after going 2 for 6 from the field in the first quarter, he didn’t score again. He missed all five of his shots in the second and third periods and, like most of the Wizards starters, didn’t play the fourth. His six points were a season low. “Anytime John Wall takes 11 shots and seven of them are 3s, that’s not who he is,” Wittman said. “He’s been playing at a pretty high level coming into (Monday), and that ratio is not very good for us.”
Wizards: Visit San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.
Grizzlies: Visit Chicago Bulls on Wednesday