The Washington Wizards (8-30) had a prime opportunity to tally a win against yet another unlikely victim this season, but their fourth-quarter rally proved too little too late as the Los Angeles Clippers (32-9) held on to win it, 94-87.
For starters, neither Blake Griffin nor Chris Paul played to their full potential Saturday night at the Staples Center. Griffin went 5-for-18 with free throws accounting for seven of his 17 points on the night. Paul tallied 22 points in his return after missing three games with a bruised right patella, but he still managed to go just 6-for-16.
While Griffin and Paul were sub-par on offense, they delivered when it mattered most and stole key opportunities from the Wizards in the final minutes of the game.
Neither team jumped in front in the first quarter. John Wall – who posted 24 points and six rebounds on the night – entered the game just over six minutes into play. Shortly after, his drive to the net tied the game at 18 points apiece, before Willie Green answered with a layup of his own for the Clippers. Wall’s 17-footer trimmed the Clippers lead to just 24-22 heading into the second quarter.
In the second quarter, however, the Clippers took control of the game. With the Wizards trailing just 36-33, Griffin did what he does best – he posted back-to-back dunks including one for the highlight reel, fed by a pass from Chris Paul to make it 40-33. The Wizards went over 2:20 before sinking another shot, and Wall’s three free throws at the end of the quarter were not enough to cut the Clippers’ lead by much as Los Angeles entered the half up 47-40.
Bradley Beal and A.J. Price pulled through with three pointers to cut the Clippers’ lead to five points at the start of the third quarter. Beal found the net again from 18 feet and Emeka Okafor followed up with a layup to pull within two points, down 52-50. Nearly three minutes went by before the Wizards made another field goal. Washington even allowed enough time for Griffin to nab a defensive rebound, scramble across the court and lob the ball to DeAndre Jordan to put Los Angeles up by 10 with the score of 60-50.
Trevor Ariza made a 26-foot three pointer and Kevin Seraphin followed up with a jumper, but the Clippers maintained a commanding 73-64 lead into the fourth quarter.
Then, the Wizards’ rally opportunity arrived.
Wall sank two free throws and Ariza sank another long jumper from three-point territory to trim the Clippers’ lead to 76-69. Then, Jordan Crawford tossed a lob to Wall who slammed it in to pull Washington within five points of catching Griffin and the gang.
Ariza’s two free throws made it 76-73, before Eric Bledsoe and Grant Hill went back-to-back for the Clippers to make it 80-73.
With two minutes remaining, the Wizards had the Clippers in their grasp yet again as Wall’s free throw brought the Clippers’ lead to just 85-84. Griffin answered with two free throws of his own before Nene’s layup brought the Wizards back within one point.
After Blake Griffin drove through traffic for a layup, Wall committed the Wizards’ 18th turnover of the night – via a discontinued dribble. Then, Paul successfully shook off Wall as he darted forward to make Wall drop back and open up an opportunity to sink a 17-foot jumper to give the Clippers a 91-86 lead with 32 seconds left.
Matt Barnes committed a shooting foul, but Wall made only the first of his two free throws. The Wizards failed to find the basket even once more, and by the time the buzzer sounded, the Clippers posted three more free throws to close the book with a 94-87 win.