Grizzlies 85, Wizards 74
After the Washington Wizards lost to the Memphis Grizzlies, 85-74, tonight before a sellout crowd at The Pyramid to earn the dubious distinction of being the first team Memphis beat after 13 season-opening losses, Wizards guard Michael Jordan sounded off.
He let it be known he is tired of losing -- this was Washington's third straight loss and fifth in six road games -- he is displeased with the team's inconsistency and said that it might be time for him to increase his workload, possibly by entering the starting lineup.
"I felt good -- you might see that more often if some of these young kids don't start to play up to their capabilities," Jordan said after scoring 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter to bring Washington back into contention after it fell behind by nine. "I've been very passive, this being early on in the season. I'm getting to a point now where if they're not going to improve every game and get consistent then I might as well move my minutes up. There's no reason to save it for next year."
When asked if he meant that he should be inserted into the starting lineup after coming off the bench all season, Jordan said, "I'm not going to say all that."
He went on.
"We've got to find a better rhythm, whether it's with me on the basketball court of not," he said. "I think [Coach Doug Collins] has been trying to give our young kids a chance to step forward. Obviously, I'm starting to come along physically. I'm starting to play more minutes. I feel good. It's not that we're panicking. I think it's important to starting showing, at this time, a good team, consistently. If that means I've got to be on the floor, great. If we can do it without me on the court, you won't hear nothing from me."
Jordan played 32 minutes tonight, making 9 of 18 shots, with six rebounds, five assists and two steals. It is unclear what young players he was referring to, but second-year forward Kwame Brown broke out of his mini-slump with 14 points and eight rebounds.
No other starter scored in double figures, though, as guard Jerry Stackhouse -- the team's leading scorer -- made just 4 of 19 shots for nine points. He shot eight of Washington's 13 three-pointers, failing to make any. The Wizards made just two three-pointers. The poor long-range shooting compounded an overall bad shooting night (39 percent) by the Wizards (6-7), who scored nearly 30 points less than what the Grizzlies had been allowing.
"I take a huge responsibility it this loss," Stackhouse said. "Our big guys came in and gave us a little presence tonight. As the leading scorer of this team and a leader on this team, I can't have a night like that and expect for us to win. We're kind of reeling right now."
Compounding Washington's woes, starting point guard Larry Hughes suffered a strained right wrist and did not play in the second half. His status is day-to-day.
Once again, Washington's undoing came in the third quarter, when it fell into a malaise that seems to routinely set in just after halftime. One game after being outscored 31-16 in the third quarter in a loss to the Houston Rockets, the Wizards shot just 35 percent and scored just 11 points in the third quarter tonight to fall behind 58-53 going into the fourth.
The cold spell extended into the fourth, as Memphis scored the first four points of the final period to take a 62-53 lead -- its biggest of the game. Jordan got hot, scoring 10 points to bring the Wizards to 73-72 late in the fourth quarter after he stole a pass from rookie Drew Gooden and scored on a breakaway dunk.
Washington tied it at 74 on a jumper from Tyronn Lue (11 points) with 2 minutes 57 seconds left. Third-string point guard Earl Watson, who had a career-high 17 points, followed with a three-pointer that ignited the Grizzlies and ruffled the Wizards.
Washington failed to score the rest of the way, while Memphis, a team that typically has folded down the stretch, made all the key plays to improve to 1-13.
"It was their win," said Memphis Coach Hubie Brown, who was coaching his sixth game after taking over for Sidney Lowe. "I am proud that they kept their focus and won this game. We never talked about the streak and focused on the win. It was a wonderful team effort. I know they are proud of themselves. With us having to shift gear with the coaching change, I'm glad they got this first win under their belt."
Watson led the Grizzlies, who had five players in double figures. Charles Oakley, who played a season-high 27 minutes, led Washington with 10 rebounds.
"It's unimaginable, in this day and time, where a young franchise like us, trying to move in the right direction and these are the games you've got to win," Jordan said. "Not to take anything from them, but these are the games you've got to come in and play yourself to a win."
Wizards Notes: Memphis's Brown said before tonight's game he would have had enough time to evaluate his team's personnel and plot his next move.
"We knew what the situation was when we came here," Brown said. "That's why we said we'll evaluate everyone over these first 11 days. . . . You know what has to be and you can't make rash decisions on players. . . . Now what happens is you start tinkering, start looking for combinations because now, these six games have given you a pretty good idea of what everybody can do. Now what you do is move the chemistry around and start changing." . . .
Grizzlies guard Jason Williams did not play because of a strained left foot. . . . This was Memphis's first sellout in six home games.