Wizards look to tighten defense against Grizzlies
MEMPHIS -- The Washington Wizards hope to take some of the heat off coach Scott Brooks when they wrap up a nine-day, five-game trip Tuesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Wizards' 1-5 start has raised questions about Brooks' future with the organization, especially with his club offering little resistance on the defensive end.
Washington managed to overcome its lackluster defense for a 125-124 overtime win at Portland to begin the trip, but things have gone downhill since then, with the Wizards losing to Golden State, Sacramento and the Los Angeles Clippers by an average of 19.3 points.
The Wizards rank last in the NBA in average points allowed (125.0), which has prompted some to call for a coaching change.
Point guard Austin Rivers, whose dad Doc coaches the Clippers, is not among those putting the blame on Brooks.
"We have a lot of talent on this team," he told reporters this week. "Coach is putting us in position to succeed. It's not on him. I'll tell you that right now. It's not on Coach Brooks."
Washington, still playing without center Dwight Howard, has allowed 113 or more points in all six of its games.
Tuesday, the Wizards will face a Memphis team that's scored more than 92 points just twice in five games this season.
Memphis won both those games and will be looking to build upon a 117-96 home win over Phoenix in its last outing. The game featured a special moment when Yuta Watanabe took the court late in the fourth quarter, becoming the second Japanese-born player to see action in an NBA game.
The 6-foot-9 forward recorded two rebounds, a turnover and his first NBA points on a pair of free throws with 1:36 remaining.
"That was my first appearance and my first (points) in the NBA," the 24-year-old gushed, "so I'm not going to forget this moment for the rest of my life."
A Wizards-Grizzlies game means a matchup of standout point guards John Wall and Mike Conley, two guys struggling in 3-point shooting this season.
Wall is second on the Wizards in scoring at 20.7 points per game but has gone just 3-for-25 (12.0 percent) from 3-point range. He shot 0-for-2 in Washington's 136-104 blowout loss to the Clippers on Sunday, the third time he's failed to make a three in a game this season.
Conley was even worse (0-for-4) in Memphis' win over Phoenix. That made him 9-for-31 (29.0 percent) for the season. He leads the Grizzlies in scoring at 19.0 points per game.
Wall and Conley didn't go head-to-head last season, with Conley having blown out his Achilles before the clubs' first meeting.
The two put on quite a show when they met early in the 2017 season, with Conley contributing 24 points and 11 assists to a 112-103 home victory.
Wall had a double-double of his own in the contest, going for 22 points and 13 assists. He enjoyed a 47-point eruption in a Wizards home win over the Grizzlies in 2013.