Sharpshooting Navarro, Memphis Bury Wizards

Rudy Gay, Antawn Jamison
Antawn Jamison, center, fights for one of his 11 rebounds in Washington's Saturday loss. (Lance Murphey - AP)
By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 25, 2007

MEMPHIS, Nov. 24 -- The improved defensive approach that allowed the Washington Wizards to dig out of an 0-5 start with six straight victories has been buried under an avalanche of hot shooting.

One night after the Golden State Warriors made 16 three-pointers in a win in Washington, the Memphis Grizzlies followed a similar path, making 13 three-pointers and shooting 52.6 percent to beat the Wizards, 124-118, on Saturday at FedEx Forum.

The Wizards (6-7) squandered a big night from forward Antawn Jamison, who scored a season-high 41 points on 18-of-22 shooting with 11 rebounds. That wasn't enough because four of five Grizzlies starters scored in double figures and the Grizzlies made 29 of 33 free throw attempts.

"They knocked down some big ones," said Jamison, who made three of his first four shots and never cooled en route to the eighth 40-point effort of his career. "That's the kind of team that once they get rolling, they can really get rolling."

Much of the damage was done by guard Juan Carlos Navarro, who was taken by the Wizards in the second round of the 2002 draft but never signed with the team and had his NBA rights traded to Memphis for a future conditional draft pick in August.

On Saturday night, Navarro probably made Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld wish he'd traded him elsewhere because Navarro matched a season high with 28 points on 10-of-14 shooting.

When Navarro pulled up off the dribble and made a three-pointer over Roger Mason with 6 minutes 21 seconds remaining, he gave the Grizzlies a 99-87 lead. It was the fifth three-pointer for Navarro and 11th for the Grizzlies (4-9), who shot a sizzling 66.7 percent in the second half while making 7 of 11 three-point attempts.

The Wizards made things interesting when Caron Butler (27 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists) followed a pair of Jamison layups with a three-pointer that cut the Memphis lead to 115-110 with 1:02 to go.

However, Antonio Daniels missed a layup on the next Washington possession and the Wizards never drew closer than four points as the Grizzlies put away the game from the free throw line. Kyle Lowry was particularly effective in that regard as he made 13 of 14 free throw attempts, including all eight attempts in the fourth.

As was the case during Washington's 123-115 loss to Golden State, many of the Grizzlies' open shots were created by dribble penetration. When the Wizards rotated to stop the dribbler, the Grizzlies passed out to an open teammate, who frequently made the shot.

It also helped that Memphis received nice interior play from Pau Gasol, who finished with 21 points and nine rebounds. Second-year forward Rudy Gay had his hands full dealing with either Jamison or Butler most of the night but also added 27 points and eight rebounds.

The Wizards are 3-2 without Gilbert Arenas, who is expected to miss three months with a left knee injury, and continue a tough road trip with games at Dallas on Monday night, San Antonio on Wednesday night and Philadelphia on Friday night.

Saturday's game concluded a grueling stretch that began with wins over Portland and Charlotte on Tuesday and Wednesday and continued with Friday's loss to Golden State.

Coach Eddie Jordan primarily has relied on a nine-man rotation since Arenas last played at Minnesota on Nov. 16, and his starters have been carrying heavy minutes.

"It's probably a little bit of playing four games in five nights, being a little undermanned and those guys probably had some tired legs midway through the game, but we fought back late," Jordan said. "We fought hard and came back and had a chance to make it a three-point game there late. We put ourselves in position and they made shots and we just didn't keep our legs underneath ourselves to contain them off the drive."

Wizards Notes: When he grabbed his sixth rebound in the second quarter, Jamison became the 12th active player with 5,000 career rebounds. . . . The Wizards wore their black and gold alternate uniforms for the first time this season. . . . The Wizards fell to 1-3 in the second game of a back-to-back set.

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