April 16, 2014

Wizards Run out of Gas in LA, Fall to the Clippers 102-84

Less than two weeks ago the Washington Wizards were embarrassed by the Los Angeles Clippers 107-81 at the Verizon Center, losing to a team that had just flown cross country to start a six game road swing. In their first game back at the Staples Center, the Clippers were able to fight off a considerably feistier Wizards squad, eventually pulling away for a 102-84 win.

Blake Griffin had 23 points and 15 boards, Caron Butler had 21 points while hitting 5 of 7 from the three point arc, and Chris Paul handed out nine assists to go with his 16 points

John Wall had 18 points, 11 assists and 6 rebounds, and JaVale McGee had 18 points but only five rebounds for the Wizards, who snapped their first win streak of the season.

Butler started off hot against his former team, scoring 11 points on perfect shooting in the first quarter. But Wall hit an outside jumper early on that allowed him to be effective both driving and passing, notching four points and four assists in the game’s first nine minutes.

Along with improved interior defense by Trevor Booker and JaVale McGee, the Wizards were able to avoid the slow starts that have doomed them against good teams in the past, staying within a score for most of the first quarter.

Despite celebrating their homecoming the Clippers played carelessly throughout the first half—something unexpected from a team lead by a consummate PG in Paul. Back-to-back traveling violations early in the second quarter gave the team five in 14 game minutes and allowed the Wizards to take a 27-25 lead with 8:47 remaining in the half.

While both squads played sloppily at times, they were also both active defensively. They combined for numerous spectacular rejections—several of which did not factor in to the teams’ six first half blocks due to fouls. The teams also combined for 10 turnovers—despite neither team recording a steal.

Nick Young cooled significantly from his hot night in Portland, where he hit 7-8 three pointers on his way to 35 points Tuesday night. He was held to one point one 0-for-6 shooting in a sluggish first half in his hometown.

McGee paced the Wizards with 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting, many coming on powerful dunks. Jordan Crawford added 12 and hit two of his three attempts from three point range.

The Clippers were able to take a 50-47 lead into the half, due in part to their 17 second chance points on nine offensive rebounds.

The second half saw continued defensive intensity by both teams. While Griffin ran roughshod on Washington’s big men in their last meeting, Booker made him work for every inch on the block this time around. The constant contact frustrated the Clippers big man, culminating in several heated conversations with the referees.

Washington fell behind by seven on a botched play four minutes into the third quarter, when a near turnover by Paul turnover became a wide open three pointer for Caron Butler that made it 56-49. Just as the Clippers looked poised to pull away, the Wizards went on an 11-2 run. Young hit two three pointers over that stretch, the second of which gave the Wizards the lead.

Booker was forced out of the game with his fourth foul toward the end of the Washington run, and rookie Jan Vesely was forced into duty guarding Griffin. He was out-muscled on several consecutive possessions, giving up four points and accruing two quick fouls that sent him to the bench and brought Rashard Lewis into action.

With an extra shooter on the floor, Young was able to free up for an open three that tied the score at 66. From there the Wizards went cold, coming away empty on eight straight possessions to end the third and giving the Clippers a 74-66 lead.

With Booker and McGee on the bench to start the fourth the Wiz made two quick baskets, and Wall’s second long jumper of the game brought them to within 75-72 with 10:12 to play. A three pointer by ex-Wizard Randy Foye gave the Clippers some breathing room, and his two free throws on the next possession extended the lead back to eight.

The Wizards could never quite get over the hump from there. After two Wall free throws cut into the lead, the Wizards turned the ball over with a chance to trim the deficit to four. Instead the Clippers got a three pointer late in the shot clock on the ensuing possession for their biggest lead of the game, 83-74.

Another Foye three pointer gave him 10 fourth quarter points and increased the Clippers lead 88-76 with 6:56 left.

Despite several opportunities to erase the advantage, the Wizards were repeatedly whistled for infractions—including a lane violation on a missed Griffin free throw when the game was slipping out of reach. The team was clearly feeling the effects of a back-to-back, allowing the Clippers to win going away in a game that was hotly contested for all but the final eight minutes.

The Wizards continue their 5 game road swing Friday in Salt Lake City before finishing Monday night in Phoenix.

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