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Wizards can't keep up with young Grizzlies late



Memphis defeated Washington, 106-99, by turning a tight game in the fourth quarter into a lesson on how to close out a victory.

During the final period, rookie of the year candidate Ja Morant served up assists for his teammates, Jaren Jackson Jr. secured rebounds, and another rookie, Brandon Clarke, swished a critical three-pointer that extended Memphis’s lead to 100-95 with 2:38 remaining.

The Wizards did not hit another shot from the field until 19.7 seconds remained — and the Grizzlies led by nine after piecing together a 10-1 run.

“I think Ja Morant just took it over in the end,” Wizards forward Davis Bertans said. “We didn’t stop him.”

Morant posted his first ­triple-double (27 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists), and Jackson recovered from a poor shooting night (6 for 16, including 1 for 6 from beyond the arc) for 14 points and 11 rebounds. He pulled down six rebounds in the fourth quarter alone. Clarke finished with nine points and six rebounds and also had a late denial of former Gonzaga teammate Rui Hachimura.

“Neither team [shot] the ball well tonight, but both teams played hard,” Wizards Coach Scott Brooks said. “We missed a lot of shots around the basket. We missed a lot of shots at the three-point line. Usually [that] hasn’t been the case.”

As the Grizzlies improved to 27-26 and remained in eighth place in the West, Washington tumbled to 18-33 after a poor offensive showing. In the fourth quarter, the Wizards made only 4 of 25 shot attempts, and Bradley Beal went 2 for 9.

“I wish we could get them all back,” said Beal, who led his team with 26 points. “We had some good looks for sure.”

Second-year guard Jerome Robinson, acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday, played 16 minutes in his Wizards debut. Robinson made a good first impression — he beat the buzzer in the opening quarter by drilling a three-pointer that gave the Wizards a 30-18 lead — but he hit only one more shot the rest of the game.

As Robinson (five points on 2-for-7 shooting) worked to get comfortable with the second unit, Bertans and Moritz Wagner picked up the slack. Bertans and Wagner, on their way to Chicago as All-Star Weekend participants, provided 34 of the Wizards’ 51 bench points.

Though he led the Wizards offensively, Beal fixated on defensive stops. Early on, he disrupted the perimeter by picking off passes and didn’t mind defending the block by bumping with Jackson, a 6-foot-11 forward. In the third quarter, Beal stuffed Jackson at the rim, and his block created a transition opportunity for Hachimura that extended the Wizards’ lead to 63-53 and agitated his rival.

The Grizzlies called a timeout after Hachimura’s dunk, and Jackson demanded a foul as a teammate tried to shield him from drawing a technical. But by the end of the night, Jackson and his young teammates would take out their frustration on the Wizards.

After Clarke made his pivotal three-pointer and then stopped Hachimura at the rim, Jackson pulled down the rebound and Morant pushed the ball until he found forward Kyle Anderson under the rim. His basket put the kids ahead 102-95, and the ­Wizards could no longer keep up.

“They’re a young team,” said Hachimura, who missed six of his seven attempts in the second half and finished with 12 points. “We just gave up a couple good looks, and they just kept going, and we just couldn’t stop them.”

Wizards center Thomas Bryant missed his second consecutive game with a sore right foot. Before the matchup, Brooks said “there’s probably a good chance” Thomas also will not play in the Wizards’ final two games before the all-star break (Tuesday vs. Chicago and Wednesday at New York). Since the start of December, Bryant has appeared in only 12 games because of issues with the foot.

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