AP Photo/Mark Terrill
Winning the second game of a back-to-back on a western road trip was never going to be easy for the Washington Wizards, particularly when the second game was against the Los Angeles Clippers, owner of the second-best record in the NBA this season. Unfortunately, the Wizards made it even tougher on themselves by committing some very preventable mistakes at critical moments in the game, allowing a Clippers team that was ice cold from the floor, to escape with a 94-87 win. The defeat drops the Wizards to 8-30 and 1-2 on this road trip.
Washington shot only 41.6% from the field and a miserable 55.6% from the free throw line, with the starters missing 6 of the 7 free throws they attempted. The Clippers were not much better, shooting only 36.6% from the field and 67.7% from the line. However, their 58-43 advantage on the boards and 18-11 advantage on turnovers were keys to their win last night.
The Wizards actually ralled to trail by only one point with 93 seconds left in regulation, but a few of those mistakes I mentioned in the above paragraph doomed their effort to failure. The Wizards forced a Chris Paul missed shot, but allowed one of the 22 offensive rebounds grabbed by the Clippers last night and that led to a magnificent Paul assist to Blake Griffin for a layup that put the Clippers up by 3 points. John Wall was called for a palming violation -- that looked legitimate to me, but is probably not called against better teams -- and Chris Paul sealed the game with a push-off on Wall to get the space he needed for a 14-foot bucket that effectively ended the game.
John Wall had a very solid game, scoring a game-high 24 points to go with his 6 assists, 3 rebounds and 3 turnovers in a season-high 31 minutes. If the team was wondering how Wall would respond to his first back-to-back since returning from an injury that cost him the first 33 games of the season, they now have their answer. Unfortunately, Wall didn't get a lot of help from his teammates. Bradley Beal scored 13 points on 5-11 shooting, but did not seem right after injuring his right wrist in a bad fall caused by a brutal foul by Denver Nuggets Kosta Koufos the night before. Nene [12 points, 7 rebounds, 6-14 shooting] seemed unable to jump and run properly and I have to wonder if he's suffering from some knee tendinitis, as mentioned by Wizards play-by-play announcer Steve Buckhantz. Trevor Ariza added 11 points and four rebounds off the bench, but that was about all the help John Wall got.
Kevin Seraphin managed only 4 points on 7 shots and Jordan Crawford, clearly still battling his way back from injury, scored only 3 points and missed 4 of his 5 shots from the field.
Blake Griffin and Chris Paul did not light it up last night, combining to hit only 11 of 34 shots, but they did make 15 of 19 foul shots and Griffin seemingly drew a foul call on every other possession in the fourth quarter, to the dismay of Trevor Booker, who came in to the game and did a pretty fair job on Griffin, I thought.
In the end, though, the Wizards came up short and were outraged by the favoritism they thought the referees were showing to the Clippers. [However, the Clippers only shot 4 more free throws than Washington, 31-27.] John Wall complained bitterly to the refs about Chris Paul shoving him off before that big 14-foot shot, and I thought he was right, but, of course, the refs paid no attention. Booker had to be restrained by his teammates or he might have attacked Blake Griffin, who caught Booker with a rough elbow under the boards. Booker later asserted that Griffin should have had the foul called and been thrown out of the game for what he thought was a flagrant-2 foul that was never called.
In a way, I was impressed at how well the Wizards played, even with two starters struggling with injuries and going up against a top team the night after beating another good western conference club. This Wizards team is clearly playing much better than the one that embarrassed itself in the first 2+ months of the season. It wasn't enough last night, however, and the Wizards could have overcome tough calls from the officias if they had hit their free throws and guarded the glass more aggressively. Their failures to do so were responsible for their 30th loss of the season.