Wizards vs. Clippers: Blake Griffin and Los Angeles dominate Washington
By Gene Wang,
The Washington Wizards were well on their way to an error-filled 107-81 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Verizon Center on Saturday when early in the second half, Rashard Lewis and John Wall were exchanging passes during a two-on-one fast break. Clippers guard Chris Paul was doing his best to stay between them, but it appeared two points were in the offing.
These are the forlorn Wizards, though, so even routine tasks often come with a high degree of difficulty. Lewis inexplicably threw the ball out of bounds, and seconds later Chauncey Billups, the Clippers’ veteran guard, swished a three-pointer.
As if that sequence were not indignity enough, Nick Young managed to make it more so with a jumper that missed everything on an ensuing possession. Center DeAndre Jordan then tipped in a miss on the other end, and the Clippers led, 66-36, with 9 minutes 50 seconds to play in the third quarter.
It was that kind of night for the Wizards (4-20). They got a team-high 14 points from Young and Wall in their fourth consecutive loss and second in a row that barely was competitive. In seven games under Coach Randy Wittman, who took over for fired Flip Saunders on Jan. 24, Washington dropped to 2-5 with both wins coming against Charlotte, which is a league-worst 3-20.
“They came in and just put it on us,” Young said.
But before these last two losses by a combined 43 points, the Wizards at least could take some comfort in keeping matters close most of the time. Not so against the Clippers.
Los Angeles got breathing room midway through first quarter and kept pouring it on from there thanks to four players who reached double figures.
All-star forward Blake Griffin led that group with a game-high 21 points on 10-for-14 shooting, 11 rebounds and eight assists, and he drew gasps whenever the crowd of 19,419 sensed he was preparing for a dunk. The second-year player didn’t disappoint either; he had slam dunks in almost every way imaginable.
At the top of that lengthy list was a dunk with 1:07 to play in the third quarter off an alley-oop feed from reserve guard Mo Williams (17 points, eight assists). Griffin came in from the left baseline, elevated above several defenders and rattled the rim with a slam that expanded the margin to 81-50.
It was about all the Wizards could do when Griffin was on the court to avoid becoming fodder for the cable sports highlight shows that delight in featuring the reigning NBA dunk champion. In the first half, for instance, center JaVale McGee, who finished second in last season’s dunk contest, fouled Griffin on what surely would have been a dunk that generated one YouTube hit after another.
Griffin’s high-wire act began almost immediately in the first quarter with a dunk on pass from Billups, followed shortly thereafter with a one-hander from Paul. Griffin then victimized rookie forward Chris Singleton with a fast-break dunk while being fouled for an 11-point lead.
Pacific Division leading Los Angeles (14-7), which has won 5 of 6, grew its advantage to 32-17 at the start of the second quarter thanks to a 6-2 run. A 7-0 surge moments later included a three-pointer from Randy Foye, who played for the Wizards during the 2009-10 season and drew a rousing chorus of boos from dissatisfied spectators.
“We came out like we weren’t prepared,” Wall said. “They came to leave a statement and just blew us out of the water.”
It got worse for the Wizards. They closed the first half by surrendering three three-pointers in three minutes and went into intermission behind, 58-34. The barrage began with Billups from beyond the arc twice and concluded with Caron Butler’s deflating three-pointer at the buzzer.
The victory produced a satisfying homecoming for Butler, who played for the Wizards for four seasons and part of another until he was dealt along with Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson to Dallas in 2009-10 to begin Washington’s rebuilding process.
Butler finished with 14 points, including 3 for 6 from three-point range, and seven rebounds in his first appearance at Verizon Center since leaving the Wizards.
“We got dominated again in every category,” Wittman said. “When you’re getting outrebounded by 21 and shooting 37 percent, it’s hard to beat anybody, let alone stay in the game.”