LOS ANGELES, March 25 -- The Washington Wizards went down with a fight Friday night, cutting a 17-point second-half deficit to one before losing 98-94 against the Los Angeles Clippers, but they were fortunate that starters Kwame Brown and Brendan Haywood didn't get into a fight with each other.
No punches were thrown -- only harsh words were traded -- but the Wizards' coaching staff felt compelled to separate the 7-footers with their largest player; moving 7-foot-3 rookie center Peter John Ramos from his seat behind the bench to sit between the two and maintain the peace.
Brendan Haywood, left, fouls Elton Brand as the Wizards fall to the Clippers, 98-94. It wasn't a great night for Haywood, who injured his thumb in the game.
(Mark J. Terrill - AP)
LOS ANGELES, March 25 -- Since all-star forward Antawn Jamison went down with right knee tendinitis, back-court mates Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes have provided the bulk of the Wizards' offense. Entering the Wizards' game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, Arenas and Hughes combined to take 48.7 percent of the team's shots (184 for 398) and scored 48.2 percent of the points (237 of 491) in the past five games. After the Wizards' 85-84 win over the Utah Jazz on Thursday -- when Arenas and Hughes combined to score 54 points and took 44 of the team's 66 shots -- Arenas said his teammates have no problem with them carrying the offensive load.
"The team has confidence in us," Arenas said. "They know what we can do so they just stay out of our way. If they get the ball, they get the ball. If they don't, they fight for it. They're going to rebound, back-cut. We're going to give them a bone here and there, but we're going to do most of the scoring."
Meantime, Arenas said Jamison shouldn't rush to get back before he is ready. "If you come back too early and [get hurt again], now we have to wait a little bit longer," he said. . . .
Friday night, the Wizards were introduced to Clippers 6-foot-7 rookie point guard Shaun Livingston, who has drawn comparisons to Jason Kidd and Magic Johnson for his court vision and playmaking ability. Livingston, the fourth pick in last summer's draft out of Peoria (Ill.) High, has missed 52 games this season because of a dislocated right patella and torn cartilage in his right shoulder, but handed out a career-high 11 assists in his first career start in the Clippers' win against Milwaukee on Wednesday.
"Everyone recognizes that he has the potential to be a great player. He's definitely what we need," Clippers forward Corey Maggette said.
Livingston originally committed to play at Duke, but he has no regrets -- especially after his injury-plagued rookie season. "I probably could've missed all of my freshman year instead of missing a couple of games," said Livingston, who is averaging 5.4 and 3.8 assists. "Bottom line, the money is a factor that plays into [the decision to go pro], but I want to play. I want to be on the court, whether it was in college or the NBA, and that was the biggest thing I was missing, rather than the money."
-- Michael Lee
With 4 minutes 1 seconds left in the third quarter, Brown began chirping at Haywood on the bench. Haywood began shouting back, "Okay! Okay!" Then Haywood stood up out of his chair and had to be held back by teammate Laron Profit. Brown kept yelling toward Haywood in anger, until forward Antawn Jamison, who is on the injured list with right knee tendinitis, jumped out of his seat behind the bench and placed a hand on Brown to calm him down. The situation was diffused when the Wizards placed Ramos next to Brown, with Ramos serving as an obstruction and keeping Haywood out of Brown's vision during their time on the bench and during timeouts.
Brown returned to the floor in the fourth quarter to score four of his six points, but Haywood sat until 3:36 was left in the game. He came in to replace Brown, but the two didn't look at each other. Haywood's night got worse, when he was forced to leave in the final seconds after injuring his right thumb.
Point guard Gilbert Arenas led the Wizards with 33 points and Larry Hughes had 21, but it wasn't enough for the Wizards, who lost for the first time in six meetings against the Clippers. The Wizards (37-30) have lost 11 of their past 14 games on the road, and hold a one-game lead over the Chicago Bulls for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. They will resume this trip in Seattle on Sunday.
Corey Maggette had 26 points and Elton Brand 25 for the Clippers (37-32), who improved to 13-2 at home this season against Eastern Conference teams. The Wizards trailed by 17 early in the fourth quarter, but they staged a frantic comeback in the final minutes and were within 92-91 when reserve guard Laron Profit (seven points) hit a three-pointer with 27 seconds left.
The Wizards trailed 28-18 when Clippers center Chris Kaman hit a pull-up jumper to end the first period. They came back with the help of forward Damone Brown, who is with the team on a 10-day contract. Brown caught an alley-oop pass from Steve Blake for a two-handed dunk that brought the Wizards within 31-28. Then, Brown was fouled on a layup, which cut the deficit to one and brought his teammates out of their seats on the bench. But Brown missed the free throw and the Wizards wouldn't get any closer in the period.
Arenas came around a screen and hit a jumper that made the score 44-39, but the Clippers scored the final eight points of the half. After Clippers reserve center Zeljko Rebraca hit two free throws with 23 seconds left in the half, the Wizards could've held for the last shot but Hughes missed a layup, giving Rebraca a chance to send the Clippers to the locker room with a 52-39 lead when he tipped in a Bobby Simmons miss.
The Clippers shot 52.6 percent in the first half. Rebraca came off the bench and led the Clippers with 14 points on 5-of-5 shooting. Brand had 12 points and seven rebounds.
Arenas led the Wizards with 16 points, but they struggled to get offense from anyone else. Hughes had six points but he shot just 3 of 10 from floor. Hughes had four steals in the first half, but it went for naught because the Wizards had 13 turnovers, with five coming off traveling violations. Reserve forward Etan Thomas was the biggest offender, with three infractions.
Brown was limited to just nine minutes after he committed three fouls in the first half. Brown didn't do much while he was on the floor, as he missed all three of his field goal attempts in the half, with his first two shots rejected by Brand.
What the Wizards' first trip out West did to bring the team together, this final trip may be having a reverse effect. This five-game western swing began with an embarrassing loss in Denver, followed by Hughes expressing his frustration with the Wizards' offense and Coach Eddie Jordan's desire to become more of low-post team. They barely escaped with a win in Utah the night before, but it obviously didn't solve the Wizards' internal problems.