Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul whipped a pass to a cutting Blake Griffin in the lane. Griffin received the pass, but instead of pulling up for an open jumper, he threw a lob to center DeAndre Jordan, who put down a one-handed dunk over Kevin Seraphin, then beat his chest to celebrate his team's 21-point lead.
The Washington Wizards were on the court Saturday night at Verizon Center, but they were mostly spectators for an incredible clinic in passing and shooting orchestrated by the incomparable Paul. Paul scored a game-high 38 points — on a mere 14 field goal attempts — and added 12 assists and three steals to lead his team to a commanding 113-97 win over the backsliding Wizards.
“It’s frustrating. It was the first game where we really got destroyed,” center Marcin Gortat said. “That was the first game where we really, truly had no chance to win the game. They were just way better.”
Washington (9-13) lost its fourth straight game — the second time it has endured such a streak this season — and was booed off the court following the half-hearted defensive effort. All five Clippers starters scored in double figures, and Los Angeles shot 56.5 percent from the field on the final leg of a seven-game trip, responding to Paul's pregame comments that it was a “must-win” game.
John Wall claimed his first victory in six tries over the Clippers in February, but that win came with a bit of an asterisk since both Paul and Griffin were sidelined with injuries. Paul and Griffin restored order Saturday, and Paul left little doubt who is the NBA's best point guard.
After scoring 30 points in three straight games last month, Wall said he was making a statement about being the “best point guard in the NBA.” If those words ever got back to Paul, the six-time all-star and two-time Olympic gold medalist didn’t need to respond with anything other than his play. Paul was 11 for 11 from the free throw line and made 11 shots from the field, including a crushing three-pointer from 31 feet with the shot clock winding down late in the fourth quarter.
Coach Randy Wittman was asked afterward how Wall is progressing as a point guard. “I think he learned something tonight,” he said. “But that’s part of the process. Chris Paul learned some things early in his career from different guys. That’s part of the league.”
Wall did his best to keep up his end of the duel, posting his ninth double-double of the season with 24 points and 12 assists. But Wall didn't have much help from a starting lineup that is starting to wear down.
Martell Webster scored just 12 points and failed to make a three-pointer for the second game in a row since he returned from a sprained left ankle. Trevor Ariza attempted to manufacture some offense with his defense, but he had only 11 points. The Wizards also made a season-low three pointers in 14 attempts. Paul was 5 for 7 from long distance.
“I feel like we haven’t been playing our type of basketball. We haven’t been playing to win,” Ariza said.
Gortat had just six points and seven rebounds.Trevor Booker had 12 points and seven rebounds but was saddled with foul trouble for most of the night and picked up a technical foul 23 seconds into the game after engaging in a shoving match with Griffin.
“I knew coming in I’d probably get one,” Booker said of the early technical. “It’s always a physical game with me and Blake. We just can’t seem to get along. He pushed me; I pushed him back. I got the tech. That’s how it goes. Superstar never gets that tech.”
The Wizards are still seeking answers for their struggles since they reached .500 for the first time in four years earlier this month. They had lost their previous three games by a combined seven points, including a deflating overtime loss the night before in Atlanta that highlighted their continued inability to win close games.
That was not a concern Saturday night, when the Clippers handed Washington its worst home defeat of the season. With Nene and Bradley Beal both sidelined, the Wizards didn't have the weapons to win a shootout. The Wizards fell to 4-5 without Beal and 0-6 without Nene.
Paul had the Wizards at his mercy as he was in complete control and orchestrated the Clippers’ offense to near perfection. He was efficient with his own scoring opportunities, found shooters Jared Dudley and Jamal Crawford and fed high-risers Griffin and Jordan for dunks.
“He’s a really good point guard,” Gortat said of Paul. “He’s playing with two butterflies that are living above the rim [in Griffin and Jordan]. He’s going to throw it in the air, and they make highlights.”
Seraphin was given an opportunity to play after the game got out of hand, and he responded by scoring 16 points — his first double-digit outing of the season, but the Clippers led by double digits the entire second half. The Wizards will play their next four games on the road, beginning Monday in New York.
“Any season you go through ups, highs and valleys,” Wittman said. “Now we want our valleys to be very shallow. And we’ve got to end this. We got to do whatever we can.”