(Bob Youngetob - CSNwashington)
The Washington Wizards played without starting shooting guard Bradley Beal [sprained right wrist] tonight, but the visiting Los Angeles Clippers were even more short-handed, with point guard Chris Paul [bruised right kneecap] and Blake Griffin both out with injuries. The result was a hard-fought 98-90 win at the Verizon Center, in which Washington led most of the way and took control of the game late in the fourth quarter. The win snaps a four game losing streak for the Wizards and improved their record to 12-35. The Clippers fell to 34-16, still first place in the Pacific Division.
"It wasn't the prettiest, but we'll take it," said Wizards head coach Randy Wittman. "It wasn't all artisitic for us. We still had ups and downs from an offensive standpoint," he continued, pointing to poor passes and subpar efficiency on offense. The coach liked the 51 points Washington scored in the first half, but said the team "seemed to forget" what they did that worked in the first half during the second half, though the Wiz did narrowly out-score the Clippers in the third and fourth quarters.
Paul was known to be out long before this game, but Griffin was a surprise scratch after injurying a hamstring before the opening tip.
Martell Webster led the way for Washington with 21 points, including a season-high five 3-pointers, 5 rebounds, 3 dimes and no turnovers in over 34 minutes of play. Also making big contributions were Nene [15 points, 7 boards] and, off the bench, Trevor Ariza [10 points, 6 boards]. Washington's backcourt looked a bit different, with Garrett Temple taking Beal's place in the starting lineup, but it worked, with Temple hitting his first four shots and scoring a season-high 15 points on 7-12 shooting. The defensive specialist also blocked three shots and grabbed 3 steals. John Wall could not hit shots, hitting only 6 of 18 from the floor and 1 of 3 from the line, but he managed to put 13 points up to go with 8 assists in 32 minutes. His counterpart and former college teammate, Eric Bledsoe, starting in place of Chris Paul, basically outplayed Wall, though, scoring 17 points and dishing 9 assists.
In the paint, Emeka Okafor was strong again for the Wiz, scoring 9 points and pulled down 14 rebounds.
The Wizards shot only 44% from the field, mostly because of Wall, but their 7-12 shooting from 3-point range made up for their poor record from the free throw line, where they missed 10 of 27 shots. The Wiz matched the Clippers with 44 rebounds [DeAndre Jordan of LA had 22 rebounds by himself] and turned the ball over only 12 times compared to 20 for the Clippers.
Washington held a precarious lead midway through the fourth quarter when Martell Webster hit a huge 3-pointer from the corner, in front of the Clippers bench and moments later John Wall took a pass off a Clippers turnover and cashed in with a thunderous dunk that put the Wiz up 91-81.
The Wizards got a scare when Jamal Crawford converted a four point play by hitting a three pointer and then a free throw after he was fouled by Trevor Ariza on the shot. That cut Washington's lead to six at 94-88, but Nene came back with a good post move, got fouled and went to the line to hit both free throws and put Washington back up by eight with 49 seconds left in regulation.
Forward Lamar Odom, forced into the starting lineup by the injury to Griffin, fouled out with less than 45 seconds remaining after scoring only 3 points and grabbing 9 rebounds. Wall got fouled and sent to the line, but missed both free throws, keeping the lead to eight points. However, the Clippers could not do anything to capitalize, with former Wizards forward Caron Butler [15 points, 6-16 FG, 6 REB, 4 TO] dribbling on the baseline under Washington's basket for a turnover.