|Wall could return as Wizards host Grizzlies|
WASHINGTON -- Sure, the Memphis Grizzlies continue their slide down the Western Conference standings. That might just spell trouble for the Washington Wizards.
Concluding a five-game road trip, the Wizards fell to the Brooklyn Nets 103-98 on Tuesday for their second consecutive loss. Both defeats came against teams with losing records and without key players. The Blake Griffin-less Los Angeles Clippers rallied from four points down inside the final minutes for a 113-112 win over Washington on Saturday.
The Wizards (14-13) haven't been at full strength for the past nine games, but that could change when the Grizzlies (8-19) visit Wednesday.
Washington point guard John Wall participated Monday in his first full practice since late November. He has been sidelined due to left knee inflammation.
Washington is 4-5 without the four-time All-Star. While the reserves, namely guard Tomas Satoransky and forward Mike Scott, found a rhythm without Wall, the starters outside of Bradley Beal largely floundered. Coach Scott Brooks played the big tandem of Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat a combined eight seconds in the fourth quarter against Brooklyn.
"I thought our guys off the bench did a great job of competing," Brooks said. "We have to get more effort from our starters, bottom line."
Washington scored just 20 points in the fourth quarter Tuesday and fell behind 100-98 on Allen Crabbe's 3-pointer as the Nets took advantage of a defensive lapse. Down three points with 8.8 seconds left after Brooklyn's free throw, the Wizards lost possession with a five-second violation on the inbounds pass and ultimately fell due to another maddening performance late.
"We're still confident. We're still together," said Beal, who scored 28 points and has averaged 34.5 points over the past four games. "There's no selfishness going on. There's no pointing the finger at anybody. It's just frustration. We're tired of losing. The only thing you can do about it is go and win. It's plain and simple. We're not getting in our own head. We're not sitting here and giving up on our year, saying that we're not a good team. We know we're a good team. We just have to go out and do it."
Memphis has dropped four in a row and 15 of 16. The latest setback, a 107-82 home loss to the Miami Heat on Monday despite trailing by only three points at halftime, left star center Marc Gasol frustrated -- with good reason.
The Heat shot 56.1 percent overall and sank 14 of 27 from 3-point range. Memphis allows 101.8 points per game but ranks 25th in 3-point-shooting defense.
"We gave up (37) points in the fourth quarter," Gasol said. "We always had a mindset where you can have a tough night offensively, but if we don't score, you don't score. When you play defense together, basketball has a way of taking care of you on the other end. You get stops, you get an open court, the ball gets moved better. Communication. Guys see that you care about them because they might have a mismatch.
"I don't see guys on a string. I see guys worrying too much about their own situation, their own dilemmas. And that's not something you can build on."
The Grizzlies, who have made the postseason seven consecutive seasons, are 1-7 since coach David Fisdale was fired on Nov. 28, and they are 1-14 without injured point guard Mike Conley.
"Everybody has to look in the mirror, and as a man, you have to take it personally," Gasol said, "because wearing this jersey means a lot."
The teams split the season series in 2016-17, with each winning on its home court.