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Grizzlies-Wizards Preview

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Adding a number of new faces has seemed to help Washington Wizards play some of their best basketball of the season.

One of those recent additions, however, will have to watch the rest of the season from the bench.

In their first game without Josh Howard, the Wizards will try for their fourth win in five tries Wednesday night against the visiting Memphis Grizzlies

Washington (20-34) was one of the more active teams before the NBA's trading deadline, dealing Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler among others. The higher-profile players the Wizards acquired in those trades were Howard, Al Thornton and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who has yet to play for the team and is seeking a buyout.

Those new additions seemed to revive the struggling club as it's topped 100 points in four straight games, including a 101-95 home victory over Chicago on Monday.

Andray Blatche had 25 points and 11 rebounds, but Howard had to be helped off the floor after colliding with the Bulls' Flip Murray in the first quarter.

The next day, the team announced that Howard had torn his left anterior cruciate ligament and will miss the remainder of the season. The forward started three of his four games with Washington and averaged 14.5 points.

"We're disappointed for Josh personally. He did an outstanding job," Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said. "We feel bad for him. The guys will have to step up in his absence."

One of those guys could be Blatche, who is averaging 25.0 points and 10.3 rebounds since the Wizards acquired Howard in a seven-player trade with Dallas on Feb. 13.

Thornton, expected to start in Howard's spot Wednesday, has averaged 16.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in three games with the his new team after posting 10.7 points and 3.8 rebounds in 51 with the Los Angeles Clippers.

"I think some guys are getting more motivated and some are getting opportunities. I think the changes we made kind of cleared things up," coach Flip Saunders said.

The Grizzlies (28-28) were relatively quiet before the trading deadline, acquiring Ronnie Brewer from Utah for a future first-round pick. Brewer, however, is out indefinitely with a partially torn right hamstring suffered in Friday's 100-87 double overtime loss to visiting Miami.

Memphis bounced back Sunday with a 10-point win over woeful New Jersey, its second in a row on the road. The Grizzlies, though, suffered their ninth loss in 12 games Tuesday at home as the Los Angeles Lakers rallied for a 99-98 win.

Kobe Bryant - playing his first game after missing five with an ankle injury - hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds left after Memphis guard O.J. Mayo, who scored a team-leading 25 points, missed two late free throws. Mayo also hit the rim on a 20-foot jumper at the buzzer.

"I'd love to take those last two free throws again," he said.

Mayo has averaged 24.5 points on 58.6 percent shooting in the past two games, and Zach Randolph has notched seven straight double-doubles.

Randolph has averaged 20 points and 12.5 rebounds in his last four games against the Wizards. Mayo has fared even better - 26.3 points in three straight wins versus Washington for his best career average against one opponent.

He led Memphis with 28 points in a 116-111 overtime win at home against the Wizards on Dec. 28.

The Grizzlies have split their past six games at the Verizon Center but won 113-97 in their only trip there last season.

Tagged: Bulls, Cavaliers, Mavericks, Lakers, Wizards, Grizzlies, Antawn Jamison, Kobe Bryant, Zach Randolph, Caron Butler, Flip Murray, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Josh Howard, Andray Blatche, Ronnie Brewer, Al Thornton, O.J. Mayo

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