The Washington Wizards might have caught a break in their home opener when they take on the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday.
Memphis, which is coming off the second game of a back-to-back, trailed most of the game during its 108-104 home loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday. Six Grizzlies scored in double figures in the loss.
Jaren Jackson Jr. led Memphis with 21 points and Derrick Rose scored 16 points off the bench, including a go-ahead jumper late in the fourth quarter. Memphis’ advantage was short-lived, however, as the Grizzlies couldn’t hold off the defending NBA champions and fell to 0-2.
The Grizzlies are playing without All-Star guard Ja Morant, who is serving a 25-game suspension after he was caught on video multiple times with guns. Marcus Smart, starting at point guard in Morant’s absence, scored 20 points on Friday.
Desmond Bane, who opened the season with 31 points and hit 5-of-10 from beyond the arc, scored 15 points Friday and went just 1-of-10 from 3-point range.
“The margin for error against the Nuggets is very, very small,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said after the game. “We had a couple missed opportunities for sure, but love the execution for the most part.”
Jenkins said he saw immediate improvement Friday after Memphis’ season-opening loss to New Orleans on Wednesday, most notably, “energy going from defense to offense.”
The Grizzlies scored 22 fast-break points against Denver after being held to just two in their 111-104 loss to the Pelicans on Wednesday. On Saturday, Memphis faces a Wizards squad that allowed 32 fast-break points in its opener.
Washington opened its season on Wednesday in a 143-120 loss at Indiana. The 143 points were the most the Wizards have allowed in regulation since a loss to the Boston Celtics in April 2022, and the most any NBA team has given up in a season opener since 1990.
“Defensively, our disposition at the point of attack — one-on-one, the pick-and-roll — wasn’t quite where it needed to be,” Washington coach Wes Unseld Jr. said during his media availability Friday.
Fourteen Wizards played on Wednesday, with eight logging at least 20 minutes. Among them was Jordan Poole, acquired in a trade from Golden State that sent Chris Paul to the Warriors shortly after Washington traded Bradley Beal to Phoenix for Paul.
Poole scored 18 points in 26 minutes in his Wizards debut, but shot 0-of-6 from 3-point range. Kyle Kuzma led Washington with 25 points.
Beal left as the second-highest scorer in franchise history and led the team in scoring every season 2017-18.
“There’s a lot of communication going on, still trying to get really familiar with everything in terms of our rotations, in terms of our rhythms,” the newcomer Poole said at Friday’s media availability.