Michael Jordan had no fourth quarter heroics to offer. His services were not necessary. His Washington Wizards beat the Memphis Grizzlies, 91-81 in front of a packed Pyramid crowd on Tuesday night.
The game was a most frustrating type of loss, complete with a huge crowd, and a festive, playoff atmosphere. The Griz had a chance to win if the team played a good game. A smart game. That didnt happen. We werent very good, forward Shane Battier summarized after the game. The Griz shot only 40.4% from the floor while the Wizards hit on 47% of their own. Also, the team turned the ball over 13 times.
With such a terrible offensive effort, MJ had little need to bare tongue or talent, allowing fellow guard Richard Hamilton to keep the game out of Griz way with his 30 points. Center Brendan Haywood scored 17 points and pulled down 15 rebounds. Jordan himself scored only 16 points, but also handed out nine assists.
On Memphis side of the ball, the rookies struggled mightily though persistently throughout. Battier contributed 14 points and fellow forward Pau Gasol scored only six points, nearly half of his season average. Gasol did make partial amends for his performance part with 13 rebounds. Point guard Jason Williams led the Grizzlies with 17 points and 11 assists. However, 11 of those points came in the first quarter, leaving the rest of Williams game relatively quiet. Forward Rodney Buford added in 14 points and center Ike Austin scored ten points and pulled down ten rebounds.
I think it was a great experience for them, head coach Sidney Lowe said after the game. Gasol went up against a veteran player in [Christian] Laettner. He is a smart player who understands how to play this game. Gasol got bumped, held, pushed, and stopped. Pau is not that aggressive yet. Gasol has to learn how to play against that kind of play. It was great for Shane as well. He was playing against Jordan and Hamilton. I think they [Gasol and Battier] were both tired, however. We need to get them a rest.
Of his teams shooting, Lowe had little to offer in remedy other than hard work. You just keep shooting, he said. You see if he is squaring his shoulder, if hes fading. But you cant mess with a guys shot. Not at this time in the season. Hes got to shoot.
As an example, Lowe pointed to the streaking Williams, whose tendency to turn his shoulders away from the basket tends to poorer shooting percentages. He knows that, Lowe said. When his shoulders are square, hes a very good shooter. Hopefully, hell understand that at the end, the percentages are important, not just the number at the end.
The Grizzlies go on an extended road trip in the coming week and will return to the Pyramid next Tuesday, December 18 when they play the Milwaukee Bucks.