Nick Young is a different cat when it comes to basketball shoes. Unlike most players, concerned about cushioning and support, Young refuses to wear orthopedic insoles in his sneakers, hoping to always generate the feeling he had when he used to play pickup on the blacktop.
Young took another unusual approach on Wednesday in Los Angeles, as he bought a pair of powder blue and navy Kobe sneakers at the Nike Vault at Staples Center and wore them for the Wizards’ game against the Clippers even though they had only been broken in during his pregame workout.
He didn’t want to wear the special made, black and red Penny Hardaway Foamposite sneakers he wore the night before in Portland – where he scored a season-high 35 points, and tied a career-high with seven three-pointers – but after missing his first six shots in the first half, he brought them back out for the second half.
“Had to go with what was working for me,” Young said.
Young shot better in the final two quarters, as he scored 13 of his 14 points, but it wasn’t the offensive display that he is accustomed to having in front of his family and friends back home.
“My teammates were encouraging me all day long, and I tried to get going in the second half as usual and just fell short,” Young said after the Wizards’ loss 102-84 to the Clippers. “I kept pushing, it was just one of them nights.”
The Wizards (7-23) weren’t necessarily expecting a repeat of their stellar performance in Portland the night before, when Young, Jordan Crawford and John Wall hit a series of unconscionable shots and the team scored a season-high 124 points. But they also weren’t expecting to have Wall and Young have almost completely opposite shooting performances.
Young missed five shots against Portland and made five shots against the Clippers. Wall missed four shots against Portland and made four shots against the Clippers. They combined to make 22 of 31 shots against Portland and missed 22 of 31 shots against the Clippers.
The Wizards got pounded in rebounding (51-36) and in second-chance points (27-13), but the loss could also be found in their poor shooting as a team. They made 39.5 percent of their shots against the Clippers – a percentage that is closer to their regular season average (42.7) than their scorching hot performance against the Trail Blazers (60).
“We’re going to go through nights where you make shots and you don’t. We’ve said that,” Wizards Coach Randy Wittman said. “We’re not going to make all of our shots all the time. We struggled a little bit with our perimeter shooting at 39 percent, but we are right there.”
Wall had more points and assists than Chris Paul, but he also had more turnovers and wouldn’t have been able to get 18 points without the benefit of going 10 for 12 from the foul line. He had a difficult night from the floor, as he shot an air ball in lane that was cleaned up when JaVale McGee caught the errant shot and dunked it backward. In the fourth quarter, Wall drove into the lane, slipped on a wet spot on the court and flipped up a shot that went in as he stumbled.
“I took good shots, the shots I made last night, I just couldn’t make them,” Wall said. “I just keep my confidence going. I got to take the same shots. The defense is going to play off me. I’m going to make a couple, I’m going to miss a couple. If we make shots, we right in games.”
The Wizards were still in the game through three quarters despite the missed shots, primarily because they battled and held the Clippers to just 42.2 percent shooting.
The Clippers were playing their first home game since returning from a six-game road trip and looked noticeably rusty and were sloppy. Blake Griffin had 23 points and 15 rebounds, but had one possession in which he shot two air balls right underneath the basket. Paul had 16 points and nine assists, but lost his dribble on a fast break and had to scramble to avoid a turnover. DeAndre Jordan slammed the ball into the rim and watched it bounce off of his back and out of bounds for a turnover. And earlier in the first quarter, Jordan nearly twisted his ankle as he stumbled into a missed layup on a three-on-one fast break.
Of course, that missed layup came after Young drove inside, lost his footing and still tried to force up a shot that Jordan blocked. That was probably the first hint that Young made the wrong sneaker choice for the Clippers game.
As the night played out, Young and the Wizards realized that shoes were only part of the problem. They missed shots, surrendered 19 offensive rebounds and couldn’t get much of anything to go right. Rashard Lewis, a 14-year veteran, picked up a delay of game warning as he ripped off his shooting shirt – and his jersey – while attempting to check into the game in the second half.
“I think we just ran out of gas,” Trevor Booker said. “We played so hard [against Portland], I think it took a toll on us a little bit.”