Wizards vs. Clippers: Blake Griffin maintains L.A.’s dominance over Washington

February 16, 2012

Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul surveyed the court, spotted Blake Griffin to his left and immediately knew where he was going to go with the ball when he left his feet.

John Wall anticipated where the pass was headed, but made the questionable decision to contest the lob. Wall jumped for the ball, but Griffin ascended an extra floor to make the catch and dunk with two hands as Wall soared right past him.

“I just wanted to make sure if I don’t tip it, I’m going straight past him, side to side. I’d rather have it the way I had instead of being chest to chest with him,” Wall explained afterward.

Wall may have avoided a more embarrassing outcome on the alley-oop dunk, but he and the Washington Wizards eventually succumbed to Griffin, two former Wizards and fatigue as they fell, 102-84, on Wednesday night at Staples Center. Griffin continued his dominant play against the Wizards, scoring 23 points and grabbing 15 rebounds to down the visitors for the fourth consecutive time.

But Griffin had plenty of assistance from Caron Butler and Randy Foye, who took over at different times to ensure the Wizards wouldn't win their third consecutive road game.

After winning their first two games of this five-game road trip by a combined 36 points, the Wizards scrapped and hustled to compensate for poor shooting (39.5 percent) until they finally fell apart in the fourth quarter under a barrage of backbreaking three-pointers and dunks.

“I don’t look at this game as an 18-point loss, we just ran out of gas at the end,” Wizards Coach Randy Wittman said. “You’re not pleased with a loss, but we fought. We hung in there. We competed. Came up short.”

Wall made two free throws to bring the Wizards within 75-72 with 10 minutes 13 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, but Foye, who had been scoreless up until that point, scored all 10 of his points during a 13-4 run that flattened the Wizards. And after Foye nailed a three-pointer to give the Clippers an 88-76 lead, Paul (16 points, nine assists) provided the finishing touches with a three-pointer, two driving layups and a lob pass to DeAndre Jordan for a dunk.

“For us to even be close, even though we were not making shots is pretty good. Last time, they did whatever they wanted,” Wall said.

The Wizards (7-23) weren't going to be the same team that simply rolled over and failed to compete on Feb. 4, when the two teams met at Verizon Center and the Clippers routed them, 107-81. After that loss, the Wizards won three of their next five and were especially confident following an impressive win in Portland the night before, when Wall, Nick Young and Jordan Crawford combined for 85 points as the Wizards established new season highs for points scored and field goal percentage.

Wall had 18 points and 12 assists and Young had 14 points against the Clippers as both failed to keep up the torrid pace they set in Portland. The duo combined to make 22 of 31 field goals against the Trail Blazers and miss 22 of their 31 shots against the Clippers.

“That’s what back-to-backs do,” Young said after the Wizards dropped to 1-6 on the second end of back-to-back games. “We ain’t got more games against them, but we’ll get them back.”

A night after scoring a season-high 35 points and matching his career-high with seven three-pointers, Young was hoping to have some carryover in his home town, where he typically has some of his best games. But Young started the game in a serious funk, missing his first nine shots before Wall found him in the corner for a wide open three-pointer. Young would hit three consecutive three-pointers, and nod his head while staring at the Wizards bench after tying the score at 66 late in the third period.

The Clippers responded by scoring the next eight points to close out the third period, which included a trio of dunks from Griffin — the first on a putback following a missed three-pointer by Foye, the second on a lob pass from Paul, and the last after cleaning up a missed layup by Mo Williams.

Butler scored 11 of his 21 points in the first period, taking rookie Chris Singleton to school with a flurry of turnaround jumpers and fadeaways. Butler made five three pointers on the night, including three in the third quarter. After depositing one particular shot from long distance to put the Clippers up 64-62, Butler turned and glared at Wizards assistant Sam Cassell, who had been trying to distract him from the bench.

JaVale McGee continued to serve as a reliable offensive option, scoring 18 points as he dazzled fans at Staples Center in much the same way he did while losing to Griffin in the All-Star game slam dunk contest last year. In the second quarter, McGee was at the foul line when a fan yelled, “Hey JaVale. Do you really think you won the dunk contest?”

On the Wizards' next possession, Wall shot an airball in the lane and McGee swooped in and had a reverse dunk. Jordan Crawford added 12 points for the Wizards, who will take the day off and then face the Jazz in Utah on Friday.

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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