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Wizards at Grizzlies Pregame: Winning In Memphis?

Regular Season Game 2

Wizards (0-1) at Grizzlies (1-1)

October 30, 2016 at 8:00 PM
FedExForum, Memphis, TN
TV: CSN Mid-Atlantic
Radio: 1500 AM


Last time they met was..

April 13, 2016 – Verizon Center: Wizards 109, Hawks 98
Game Notebook 27, Wizards vs. Grizzlies: A “Christmas Gift” From Saint John


What to watch

John Wall. Coming off a 3 for 15, 5 turnover performance, John Wall is already under the microscope. At least he’s under my microscope. Very little can be accomplished during the first 20 games of the season, much less the first two games, but the tone for the season can definitely be set early. Here’s a few examples:

  • Myles Turner had 30 points and 16 rebounds in his opening game, setting the tone for Indiana to be among the best teams in the East, and getting their fans feeling just like this:

  • DeMarr DeRozan followed up a 40 point opening night by dropping 32 on the Cavs, and dropping this hammer on Tristan Thompson.

He’s making it clear he’s not settling for his max contract, but out to prove he deserves it, and setting the tone for the Raptors to be among the best teams in the East.

  • Dwyane Wade did this:

And then this:

A clear (and costly $25,000) gesture that he intends to make the Windy City a winning city, and setting the tone for Chicago to be among the best teams in the East.

Oh, and in case you weren’t paying attention, the Hawks started the season strong too, with a 19 rebounds effort from Dwight Howard, and a 28 point effort from All-Star Paul Millsap, setting the tone for the Hawks to among the best teams in the East.

You see where I’m going with this? It generally doesn’t get late too early in the NBA, but early season success and confidence can propel an average team to elite levels (See 2014-2015 Wizards). Early season struggles, particularly with new and/or unproven pieces, can send an average team into an early downward spiral that can take the entire season to recover from, if they recover at all (See 2015-2016 Wizards).

It all starts with John Wall. Two years ago, Wall exploded out of the gate, earning an All-Star starting spot, and only his broken hand kept the Wizards out of the Eastern Conference Finals. Last year, Wall started slow, and the season went to 💩.

Wall needs a big night tonight, but a big night won’t come easy. Mike Conley is among the best defensive point guards in the NBA, and he’s got one of the best defensive anchors in the NBA behind him in Marc Gasol. The Wizards generally thrive on John Wall 1-4 and 1-5 pick and rolls, but Marc Gasol is one of the best in the league at smothering pick and rolls. He also protects the rim without fouling, and rarely gets caught out of position. If you like basketball, keep an eye on the basketball. If you LOVE basketball, keep your eyes on Gasol.


Key Matchup

Wizards vs. The Glass

The Wizards were out-rebounded by 12 against the Hawks, including 7 offensive rebounds from Dwight Howard. Now they face Marc Gasol, with Zach Randolph anchoring the bench. Keep an eye on the rebounding numbers tonight. A positive rebound differential will likely mean a positive point differential.


X-factor

James Ennis.

How many times has a random role player torched the Wizards from distance over the last two years? 50? 100? 164 plus playoffs?? Whatever that number, Tim Hardaway Jr. added his name to that list on Thursday, shooting 3/5 from three, and scoring 21 points.

James Ennis had a similar performance Wednesday against Minnesota, hitting 3/4 from three, scoring 15 points for the Grizzlies. Note to Wizards players: Finish your rotations! Far too often, all it takes to get a great shot against the Wizards is a simple 2 swing pass sequence to the open weak side shooter. The Grizzlies have willing passers all over the court. If an extra pass or two is all it’s going to take to get good looks tonight, the Wizards are toast. And James Ennis will be the one charring the edges.


Fun Factor:

Marcus Thornton!

This man gets his shots up. He doesn’t necessarily get them IN, but he sure gets them up. I’m not sure the Marcus Thornton experience is actually fun. Actually, I’m sure the Marcus Thornton experience is not fun. But it’s definitely an experience.


Prediction

Marc Cohn likes Walking in Memphis. Marc Gasol likes Winning in Memphis. Wizards drop to 0-2, and the objective lens turns from 10x to 100x on #2.

we are Hoop District

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