The crowd was standing for him again down the stretch as he helped the Grizzlies pull away from the Washington Wizards on Friday night. Prince hit his first three shots, then connected on a pair of fourth-quarter jumpers to finish with 14 points as the Grizzlies defeated the Wizards 85-76.
"Getting the `W' was the main thing," Prince said. "Once we got in a good rhythm, we were able to pull through late in the game."
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Mike Conley scored 18 points to lead Memphis, which was playing its first home game since Prince, Ed Davis and Austin Daye were acquired in a three-team trade this week that sent Memphis leading scorer Rudy Gay to Toronto.
Conley said his role has changed as well as that of other teammates, who now must combine to pick up the 17.2 points a game that left for Toronto with Gay.
"I feel like that's what I'm here for now. That's my role," Conley said. "I'm a role player. I'll do whatever I have to do to win the game. Now, my role is to be more offensive-minded and try to make plays, be aggressive at all times and get up as many shots as I can."
Marc Gasol added 13 points and 15 rebounds for the Grizzlies, while Tony Allen and Jerryd Bayless finished with 11 points each. Allen also grabbed eight rebounds, and Conley also had six assists and four steals. Prince finished 7 of 11 from the field.
Nene was the only Wizards player to reach double figures with 14 points, while handing out six assists. Emeka Okafor had eight points and 10 rebounds as Washington lost its third straight after winning seven of 10.
"They are a physical team," Washington coach Randy Wittman said of the Grizzlies. "They make you move the ball, and, if you don't move the ball, you end up taking bad shots."
Washington rookie guard Bradley Beal missed his second straight game with a right wrist injury.
And the Wizards got another scare when guard John Wall, who missed the first 33 games of the season with a stress injury to his left patella, went to the locker room late in the second quarter with a strained left shoulder. He returned to start the second half, and finished with nine points and six assists.
"I was scared," Wall said of the injury. "I can't catch a break, is all I was thinking. I went back out there and played. I could still feel the pain, but I just tried to play through it."
Memphis put the game away in the final 4 minutes, part of outscoring the Wizards 46-36 in the second half. The Grizzlies overtook the Wizards in the middle stages of the third quarter as Washington had trouble controlling the basketball. The Wizards had a handful of turnovers through the first eight minutes of the period.
The Grizzlies built the lead to five points helped by the Wizards' miscues, which would reach seven in the third. That led to Memphis carrying a 61-56 lead into the fourth quarter although the game was hardly an offensive display of efficiency.
Both were shooting between 41 and 42 percent and things seemed out of sync for both. Memphis ended the night hitting 45 percent, while the Wizards were at 41 percent. Prince said for Memphis the flow was off because of the new surroundings and being unfamiliar with the Grizzlies' playbook.
"Marc Gasol was pretty much directing me every time Mike (Conley) called a play," Prince said. "There were times in the first half and the third quarter where we ran plays and I was kind of going here and going there not knowing what the situation was."
Memphis couldn't extend the advantage enough to get comfortable in the early part of the fourth, and Trevor Ariza's 3-pointer with 8:22 left pulled Washington within 67-66.
Memphis eventually took the lead to 10 points, its biggest lead of the game, when Prince connected on consecutive jumpers for a 72-62 lead with 1:11 remaining.
"I was worried," Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. "You never know. We had new players on the bench, so we had more people to work with. But you never know how it is going to work out when you have new guys for the first game."
While Prince hit his first three shots, both teams struggled from the field in the second quarter, including Washington missing 16 of its first 18 shots in the frame. Memphis was 6 of 20 in the second, while the Wizards were 5 of 23. Memphis outscored Washington 16-10 in the second quarter.
Neither team had a player in double figures at halftime, and Memphis matched its poor shooting with 10 turnovers to seven miscues for the Wizards. For Memphis, it was an example of the first game adjustments.
"I think that's why we struggled early in the first half," Prince said. "We went through a couple of plays pregame, but obviously we know the difference between pregame and once you get out on that court, especially in a short period of time.
"It was tough, but they tried to keep it as simple as possible for the first game."
- Daye and Davis are wearing their numbers -- 5 and 32, respectively -- from their previous teams, but Prince changed from the 22 he wore in Detroit to 21.
- The Wizards are 3-20 on the road.
- The Wizards have lost seven of the last eight to the Grizzlies, and haven't won in Memphis since Nov. 3, 2004, the first game in the FedExForum, the Grizzlies current homecourt.
- Memphis F Zach Randolph, now the team's leading scorer with Gay gone, scored seven points, his third straight game in single digits.
- Prince came off the bench, the first time he hasn't started a game since Feb. 17, 2004. Prince had started 672 consecutive games for Detroit before the trade.