Few teams needed a break this week more than the Washington Wizards, who blew a 35-point lead on Tuesday in a stunning 116-115 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Wizards return to the floor on Saturday when they begin a three-game road trip against the Memphis Grizzlies, who have won 25 of their past 32 games.
Washington is searching for answers after being outscored 80-49 in the second half of the meltdown against the Clippers.
“Collectively, from one through 10, myself included, it’s embarrassing,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said.
Bradley Beal is averaging 23.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists for Washington, which is 13-22 since starting the season 10-3.
Unseld is using a deep rotation while trying to incorporate center Thomas Bryant and forward Rui Hachimura, who both recently returned following lengthy absences.
The Wizards’ recent play had Beal questioning the team’s identity following the Tuesday collapse.
“It’s kind of understanding who we are and what we are and what are we trying to achieve, honestly,” Beal said. “What kind of team are we trying to be? I think that’s my biggest question to all of us as a unit. Like, who are we trying to be? It’s either we want to be a winning team or we don’t.”
The Wizards appeared to be on the right track back on Nov. 5, when Montrezl Harrell scored 18 points to lead seven players in double figures in a 115-87 home win over Memphis.
Washington will be hard-pressed to complete a season sweep against a Memphis team that continues to exceed expectations.
Point guard Ja Morant, who was named a Western Conference All-Star starter earlier this week, recorded his fourth career triple-double on Friday. He logged 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in the Grizzlies’ 119-109 win over the visiting Utah Jazz.
“He’s an unbelievable talent, unbelievable person,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “Just to have another coach on the floor, to have similar wavelengths going through our brains, when we’re out there competing between the lines, it’s very special. He’s putting in the work, and it’s just so fun to watch because there are still untapped parts of his game that he’s just still exploring.”
In addition to having one of the top stars in the league, the Grizzlies boast a strong supporting cast led by Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane and Brandon Clarke.
Jackson blocked six shots in each of his past two games for Memphis, which sits in third place in the Western Conference.
The Grizzlies look to maintain their momentum against a Washington team that is beginning its toughest stretch of the season. After the Saturday matchup, the Wizards face Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Miami and Brooklyn.
“It doesn’t stop,” Beal said. “It doesn’t stop. I think that’s the frustrating part. We’re trying to make these adjustments and corrections on the fly, and we got a lot of problems in your own household you’ve got to deal with. Just got to figure it out.”
Washington forward Kyle Kuzma has been one of the team’s bright spots with a career-high 19 double-doubles this season, including in 11 of the past 16 games.
The Wizards have lost 16 of their past 19 games in Memphis since the start of the 2002-03 season.
–Field Level Media