While the Memphis Grizzlies are finally enjoying their transition into a smaller lineup, the Washington Wizards are figuring out how to survive after getting forced into a similar change.
The Grizzlies go for a third straight win after an early season adjustment when they visit the banged-up Wizards on Wednesday night.
Memphis (16-14) moved 15-year veteran Zach Randolph out of the starting lineup last week for the first time since March 2013, hoping to benefit from a faster pace. After losing three of four games, the Grizzlies have back-to-back victories for the first time in three weeks.
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They beat Indiana 96-84 on Saturday before opening a three-game road trip with Tuesday's 104-90 win at Philadelphia.
The offense is still lagging with 97.0 points per game in six contests since Matt Barnes moved into Randolph's spot, but the defense has turned a corner. Memphis has held five consecutive opponents to fewer than 100 points, and Indiana and Philadelphia combined to shoot 42.7 percent with 45 turnovers.
Memphis snapped a three-game road losing streak, finishing with 21 fast-break points and 36 points off 28 turnovers against the 76ers.
''I thought the level of defensive pressure that we had, our activity was phenomenal, on the ball, weak side,'' Mike Conley said. ''Guys were communicating, trusting each other.''
Barnes has averaged 13.0 points on 51.8 percent shooting since moving into the starting lineup, including a season-high 20 against Washington on Dec. 14.
That 112-95 home win was the first glimpse of what Memphis' small-ball lineup can do. The Grizzlies shot a season-high 56.4 percent and made 10 of 15 3-pointers. Marc Gasol finished with 24 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and three blocks while Conley had 18 points and 11 assists.
The Wizards and Grizzlies have split the last six meetings.
Mounting injuries have forced Washington (12-14) to alter its lineup. While Nene, Bradley Beal, Drew Gooden and Alan Anderson have been out for extended periods, Otto Porter and Gary Neal have missed time of late.
The Wizards had just eight players available on Monday for the middle contest of a three-game homestand, but John Wall still finished with a career-high 19 assists in a 113-99 win over Sacramento. Nine of those went to Marcin Gortat, who poured in a season-high 27 points.
The win gave the Wizards consecutive victories for the first time since a three-game streak in mid-November. They climbed to 6-7 at the Verizon Center, where they went 29-12 last season and didn't lose their eighth game until Feb. 2. Washington plays six of its next eight at home.
“It's just an opportunity to try to win these games, take one game at a time and try to get closer to .500,” Wall said. “Play better basketball until we get guys back.”
Wall left in the final minute of Monday's win with sore ribs, but said he will play against the Grizzlies – he kind of has to.
Beal is set to be re-evaluated on Saturday after missing six games with a stress reaction in his lower right fibula, but his likely January return will come with a minutes restriction. The statuses of Nene (calf), Neal (lower back), Porter (bruised left thigh), Gooden (calf) and Anderson (ankle) are unclear.
In the meantime, the Wizards are riding a small lineup around Gortat. Garrett Temple, Ramon Sessions and Kelly Oubre Jr. have seen an uptick in minutes.
Neal and Sessions combined for 38 points off the bench against Memphis earlier this month, but the rest of the team shot 35.9 percent. Wall was held to a season-low six points on 2-for-11 shooting.