Wizards vs. Grizzlies: Washington falls to 0-23 on the road this season, third-longest streak in NBA history

Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 30, 2011; 1:23 AM

MEMPHIS - Trevor Booker grabbed a rebound and made a outlet pass to Al Thornton near the sideline. Thornton watched the ball bounce toward him, but was slow to react, and when he finally reached out for it, he knocked it out of bounds. Thornton grabbed the ball and angrily slammed it to floor. He caught the carom, palmed the ball and slammed it again.

The frustration has been palpable on the road all season for the Washington Wizards, who constantly lose focus and confidence and cannot complete many tasks properly - simple or otherwise. And for another night, their faces were filled with frowns and angry glares, their heads shaking, flustered, because they simply cannot win a road game.

Saturday, the Memphis Grizzlies handed a 23rd consecutive road loss this season to the Wizards, who now hold the third-worst road start in NBA history after a 107-93 defeat at FedEx Forum.

"We're soft, man," Thornton said after the Wizards also lost their sixth straight game in Memphis since opening the building with a win in 2004. "Soft, that pretty much describes the way we played. Pretty soft. Soft as hell."

Rookie John Wall led six players in double figures with 14 points and added eight assists, but Washington (13-33) has started this four-game road trip with two losses that couldn't have been much more different.

After an emotional, lively showing in Oklahoma City, where the Wizards pushed the Thunder into double overtime before succumbing to a Kevin Durant onslaught, the prevailing question was whether they would have anything left for another young but more physical team the next night. The Grizzlies (24-24) can get out on the run, with a speedy point guard in Mike Conley and a high flyer in Baltimore native Rudy Gay, but they do a lot of their damage inside with the big man tandem of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.

It certainly didn't help the Wizards that center JaVale McGee was still back home recovering from the flu. Washington was able to make up for McGee's absence against the Thunder, which doesn't have as strong an interior presence. And though the undersize Booker is one of the team's most tenacious defenders, the Grizzlies exploited their advantage, scoring an incredible 68 points in the paint.

"It was pretty much a layup drill for most of the game," said Kirk Hinrich, who had nine points and three assists in his return after missing the past four games with a hyperextended right elbow.

Randolph extended his string of consecutive doubles to 14 with 24 points and 20 rebounds, and Gasol had 14 points and eight rebounds. Conley finished with 15 points and 12 assists.

A night after scoring a game-high 32 points against the Thunder, Nick Young was held to just eight points on 2-for-9 shooting, as Tony Allen and Sam Young attacked him and got physical with him. Young was eventually forced to leave in the fourth quarter after taking a knee to his right calf in a collision with former Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez. After the game, Young said the injury wasn't serious and was critical of the game plan against Memphis.

"I don't know. We don't stay consistent with play calling," Young said. "It's crazy. It can't be us all the time. The same thing we run against the Thunder, we came out with a different plan. It can't be us every night. . . . We should've carried over what we had against the Thunder. We should've came out excited and ready to pump and going with the same routine. Everybody came out forced, like we got to get this done, and that forced us to play different."

The Wizards held Gay to just four points on 2-of-11 shooting, but Allen compensated for that poor showing with his contagious energy on defense and added 15 points. Allen also spent a good amount of time yapping at the Wizards' bench, particularly assistant coach Sam Cassell, who won a championship with Allen in Boston.

"They were out there having fun. Some of their players were talking junk, and I felt like, we didn't stand up to the challenge and play with energy," said Booker, who had his second straight double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds after getting career highs of 21 points and 12 rebounds in Oklahoma City.

The Wizards kept hanging around, but it never felt they could seriously challenge the Grizzlies, who were coming off an impressive win the night before in Philadelphia, where they came back from a 16-point fourth quarter deficit to outscore the 76ers 42-21 in the final period√. Memphis built double-digit leads and the Wizards would trim them but could never get close enough.

Andray Blatche, playing despite a bout with the flu, made a short jumper that brought the Wizards within 69-63 with 5 minutes 19 seconds remaining in the third quarter, but the Gasol tipped in a missed layup by Randolph to trigger a run of 13 consecutive points for the Grizzlies. The Wizards went nearly four minutes without scoring before Blatche (10 points) finally made a layup that brought them within 82-75.

"This is a no-mercy league," Coach Flip Saunders said. "No one is going to feel sorry for you. We cannot feel sorry ourselves. They are big boys. We get judged by what we do 82 times a year."

Through 46 games, with half on the road, the results have not been pretty.

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