WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington Wizards were already facing a bit of a gut check after allowing 143 points in their season opener.
Coach Wes Unseld Jr. liked his team’s response.
“There was a little bit more care factor,” Unseld said. “I think guys were (ticked) off, which is great. You should be. You’ve got to attack each game like that.”
Corey Kispert scored all of his 22 points in the first half, and the Wizards held off the winless Memphis Grizzlies 113-106 in their home opener Saturday night.
It’s a new era in Washington following the departures of Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis and the arrival of new team president Michael Winger. Little is expected of the Wizards in 2023-24, but Washington took advantage of 18 turnovers by the Grizzlies after losing 143-120 to the Pacers three days earlier.
“It was much better. Just overall disposition was better,” Unseld said. “You could tell guys were locked in. It wasn’t perfect, but I thought we were in the right spots most of the night, and when you do that, you give yourself a chance.”
Memphis, which is without suspended star Ja Morant, has dropped its first three games this season after surpassing 50 wins in each of the past two. The Grizzlies were on the second night of a back-to-back after a four-point loss to defending champion Denver.
The Wizards missed their first eight shots to start the game, but Kispert scored 16 points in the second quarter. Washington went 12 of 29 from 3-point range in the first half, and although Memphis limited the damage from long range after halftime, the Wizards had already built a substantial lead.
“It feels like we had a lid on the hoop for the first like five minutes of the game. When the shots started pouring in, it felt like they kind of came in bunches,” Kispert said. “We moved the ball well, we turned them over, and that led to easy shots.”
The Wizards were up 62-46 at the half, and Kyle Kuzma’s three-point play on an alley-oop dunk gave Washington its biggest lead at 75-50. Memphis cut the lead to 12 by the end of the third quarter and had it in single digits late, but couldn’t draw any closer than six.
“Obviously, we’re still working through it. It’s not pretty right now,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. “But I love the effort that our guys are giving. … Offensively, I thought we turned the corner, especially in that third quarter.”
Jordan Poole led the Wizards with 27 points and Kuzma added 21. They attempted 23 field goals apiece, with Kuzma going 1 of 10 from 3-point range.
Desmond Bane scored 26 points for Memphis.
The Grizzlies dealt Tyus Jones to Washington as part of the deal that sent Porzingis from the Wizards to Boston. Jones had 14 points and seven assists against his former team.
Grizzlies: Host Dallas on Monday night.
Wizards: Host Boston on Monday night.
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