Even though the NBA is currently loaded with strong point guards, the Wizards can't afford to lose that battle on most nights. Seeing as they have John Wall, that's not normally an issue. That is when Wall shows up with energy on both ends of the court. Wall's productive and lively game barely showed at all against Memphis fill-in Nick Calathes.
Washington's leading scorer on the season, Wall finished with a season-low five points on 2 of 10 shooting in Tuesday's 92-89 road loss against the Grizzlies. There are nights when the shots simply don't drop, but it's not like the newly-minted All-Star helped much elsewhere. He had five assists, four turnovers and missed all four of his 3-point attempts including the potential game-tying try with one second remaining.
Adding to the tough night was that Calathes had a productive one. Stepping in of late for the injured Mike Conley Jr., the first-year NBA player made 8 of 12 field goals and matched Marc Gasol with a team-high 18 points. The 6-foot-6 Calathes, who played in Russia last season, also had seven rebounds, six assists with two steals and two turnovers.
In six games taking over for Conley, Calathes is averaging 15.2 points and 4.7 assists. Stats are one thing. The timing of said stats is another. Like Phil Pressey and Patty Mills before him, Calathes was the latest unknown or underrated point guard to play big minutes in the clutch against Washington.
The Wizards overcame a 16-point deficit in the second half. Bradley Beal, who scored a career-high 37 points and Marcin Gortat started the comeback in the third quarter. Washington took an 82-80 lead on Nene's jumper with 5:46 remaining, only for Calathes to score the next five points. His floater on the game's next possession tied the game. Fouled while making a layup with 4:34 left, Calathes' 3-point play put Memphis in front for good.
This certainly wasn't a good night for Wall. Ironically, he previously had a career-high against Memphis with 47 points on March 23 at the Verizon Center in the last meeting between these teams. That shot-making version never showed in this matchup.
"I just didn't make shots and I wasn't aggressive like I usually am on the defensive end," Wall said. "You can say fatigue or tired, but it wasn't none of that. It was just coming out there and putting forth the effort like we did in the third quarter and make a run. It starts with me and I didn't do a great job of that tonight."