Sports

Wizards Nearly Blow Double-Digit Lead, Hang on to Top Memphis

The Washington Wizards returned home Wednesday after a five-game road trip, and John Wall returned to action after an even longer absence. Yet it took all they had to hold off the lowly Memphis Grizzlies for a 93-87 win after nearly squandering a 17-point second-half lead.

In one of the team’s best defensive efforts of the season, the Wizards held Memphis to 29 first-half points and 38 percent from the field on the night. But it wasn’t pretty.

“I never watched paint dry, but I’m assuming that’s what it looked like,” head coach Scott Brooks joked afterward. “We couldn’t make any shots. I liked a lot of our looks. It was ugly, but sometimes you have to win those ugly games.”

One particularly ugly stat for the Wizards was the team’s free-throw shooting, going just 12-for-24 from the line.

Wall, who had been out since Nov. 22 with a sore knee, missed all four of his free-throw attempts, but had 13 points, four assists and a memorable blocked shot against Grizzlies forward Chandler Parsons late in the fourth quarter that he pinned to the backboard.

“Other than my four missed free throws, I think [my play] was pretty cool,” Wall said. “The most important thing is we got the win, so that was key.”

The Wizards (15-13) played at home for the first time since Dec. 1. The team went 2-3 on the five-game road trip that ended with a loss Tuesday against the Brooklyn Nets.

“We get to sleep in our own beds. Be back in our own house [and] be in our own rooms,” guard Bradley Beal, who led the Wizards with 18 points, said of returning home. “It’s great for us. We have to protect our house and be ready to go.”

The team had a sluggish start against Memphis (8-20), who came into Wednesday’s game as the league’s second-worst rebounding team, third-worst in scoring and 24th in assists.

The Wizards held a 17-point lead early in the second half, but it soon fizzled away, with Memphis guard Andrew Harrison, who had a game-high 20 points and seven assists, spearheading the comeback with seven points in the third quarter.

With the Washington lead down to one, things got a bit chippy at the 9:15 mark of the fourth quarter between Wizards forward Jason Smith and Grizzlies point guard Mario Chalmers, with both players assessed technical fouls in the exchange. But the brief skirmish seemed light a fire under Washington, which outscored Memphis 28-23 the rest of the way.

The Wizards host the Los Angeles Clippers (11-15) on Friday. The Clippers defeated Washington in Los Angeles 113-112 on Saturday after a clock operator error negated Beal’s potentially game-winning shot in the final 1.2 seconds, and Marcin Gortat missed a jump shot on the do-over.

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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