L.A. Clippers defeat Washington Wizards, 92-78

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 25, 2010

They should've known better. When the Washington Wizards won consecutive games for just the fourth time this season, there was a feeling of optimism among players and Coach Flip Saunders, who actually uttered the word "playoffs."

But anyone who has watched the Wizards this season should realize that a two-game winning streak is usually followed by trouble. The past two times they won two in a row, the Wizards followed with a six-game losing streak and a four-game losing streak, respectively. After pulling out wins over Sacramento and Portland, the Wizards have now lost three in a row, including Sunday's 92-78 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Verizon Center.

For the Wizards, consecutive wins have qualified as prosperity, and it has proved to be a position in which they have yet to show an aptitude to thrive.

"We play games like we're the team coming in 26-8 or something," a flustered Saunders said after the Wizards suffered their second consecutive double-digit loss. "That's got to stop."

Antawn Jamison recorded his fifth consecutive double-double against the Clippers with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Brendan Haywood added 18 points and 12 rebounds, but they were unable to keep the Clippers from sweeping the season series against Washington for just the third time in franchise history -- and first time since 2005-06.

"I'm not embarrassed about losing to the Clippers," Haywood said. "We're embarrassed that we didn't come out here and execute and we settled for jumpers, when we should've took the ball to the basket.

"Guys come out and we're launching jumper after jumper. It's something that's happened all year. What game is this? Game 43? It's the 43rd game and we're making the same mistakes we were making in games two and three," he said. "There needs to be a new Wizards Man Law: Take the ball to the basket."

The Wizards opened the game by taking 20 jumpers in the first quarter, missing 15, while they were 7 for 7 inside the paint. But they lost the game during a 7-0 run in the second period, a 12-0 run in the third period and by scoring a season-low 10 points in the fourth.

"It's not like we're doing it on purpose. We preach about it before every game, and we still get the same results," Jamison said. "It takes a toll when you get the same results."

With his team lacking energy for the second consecutive game, Saunders found himself searching in obscure places for help, and that led him to Mike James, who saw his first action since Nov. 6. James scored 11 points off the bench in his home debut and admitted he was shocked when he started the game on the active roster -- and when Saunders summoned him to enter the game with 2 minutes 23 seconds left in the second quarter. After initially ignoring Saunders, James's teammates actually had to inform James that Saunders wanted him.

James provided a brief spark, with reserve point guard Earl Boykins nursing a heel injury. James buried a jumper to bring the Wizards to 83-78 with 2:12 left in the fourth, but the Clippers ended it with a 9-0 run.

"We're searching for guys to give energy and I give Mike James credit, he didn't always play effective at times, but he played hard and played with energy," Saunders said. "If you do that consistently as a team, you'll find a way to get your way back. We just didn't have that."

Saunders later singled out Andray Blatche, who went scoreless with three rebounds and two turnovers in 11 minutes. "I told Andray, 'I've seen enough of that behind-the-back dribble in the lane. That might've worked on the playgrounds, but it ain't going to work here.' Every time he does that, he turns it over. There are habits that have to be broken."

When informed of Saunders's comment after the game, Blatche said: "He's the man. I don't have anything to say about that."

After starting this latest skid with a one-point loss to Dallas, the Wizards (14-29) have lost their past two games to Miami and the Clippers by a combined 39 points. And the situation won't get easier with the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers coming to town on Tuesday.

"That's a helluva challenge," said Caron Butler, who scored 10 points but missed 12 of his 17 attempts against the Clippers. "We got the champs coming to town. You got to have a ghost out there with you. Got have five-plus-one or something."

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