Garrett Temple intercepted an errant pass from Los Angeles Clippers point guard Eric Bledsoe and tossed an outlet pass ahead to John Wall. Wall scooted up the floor, all alone on the break, and was preparing for his first easy basket of a night in which he had to scrap and claw for everything else.
“I was just thinking, praying, just please, let something go in,” said Wall, who leaned back and threw down a left-handed dunk that did more than just secure a 98-90 victory for the Washington Wizards on Monday night at Verizon Center. Wall finally earned his first career win against the Clippers, a team that has managed to torment him more than many others.
After throwing down the dunk, Wall chest-bumped Trevor Ariza and stomped down the floor, unconcerned that he didn’t have his best performance against Bledsoe, his friend and former college teammate, or that the Clippers were playing without Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. The Wizards (12-35) ended an eight-game losing streak against the Clippers and Wall claimed his first victory over the franchise in six tries.
“Wasn’t the prettiest, but we’ll take it, definitely,” Coach Randy Wittman said after the Wizards also snapped a four-game losing streak. “Hey listen, we’ve played enough games without players. Don’t give me that . . . about who was here and who wasn’t here [for the Clippers]. This is a game we won. Give me a break.”
Five players scored in double figures for the Wizards, with Martell Webster leading the team with 21 points and connecting on 5 of 6 three-pointers. Nene had 15 points, Temple scored 12 and Ariza had 10 off the bench, including a huge three-pointer during an 11-2 run that helped the Wizards turn a one-point game into a 91-81 lead in the final minutes.
Wall had 13 points and eight assists and capped the run with the emphatic jam as the Wizards won for the sixth time in their last seven games at Verizon Center. Monday’s win was their fourth at home over against a division leader after also knocking off Miami, Oklahoma City and Chicago.
“We’ve been stepping up to the level of the competition all year, but we can’t play down,” Webster said. “We have to continue to play at that level, at a high level.”
Griffin was a late scratch with a strained left hamstring and Paul missed his eighth consecutive game with a bruised right kneecap. Griffin missed his first game since he sat out the entire 2009-10 season with a fractured left patella, ending the NBA’s second-longest active string of consecutive games played at 197.
In the teams’ last meeting, Jan. 19 in Los Angeles, Paul had 22 points and 12 assists and made a critical jumper over Wall in the final minute of a 94-87 Clippers victory. But the Clippers (34-16) have been struggling without Paul, losing three in a row and seven of nine overall, including a 106-104 defeat on Sunday in Boston.
With Paul sidelined, the Clippers have relied on Bledsoe, Wall’s teammate for one season at Kentucky, who has proven to be a valuable asset. Bledsoe was certainly fired up going against Wall but he maintained the same demeanor and never appeared out of sorts as he gave the Wizards fits with his quickness and freakish athleticism. He scored 17 points with nine assists and also had two blocked shots, one of them in the third quarter when he surprised Webster as he attempted a layup with an impressive block off the glass.
Jamal Crawford led the Clippers with 28 points and former Wizard Caron Butler had 15, making a driving layup that brought the Clippers within 80-79 with 5 minutes 39 seconds remaining. The Wizards made 2 of 4 free throws on their next two trips down the floor, but Nene rebounded his second miss and Ariza ended the possession with a huge three-pointer.
Temple hit a long jumper and Bledsoe later found DeAndre Jordan (seven points, 22 rebounds) for an alley-oop dunk. Wall missed 12 of his 18 field goal attempts, but he put the game away with a pull-up jumper and his jam after Temple’s steal.
“I know we’re a capable team that can beat a lot of teams if we do what we’re supposed to. We’ve got to work together. We just had to trust each other,” said Wall, who now has wins against every team in the league except Dallas, Golden State, Phoenix, San Antonio and New York, the Wizards’ opponent at home on Wednesday. “Since everybody came back healthy and I came back, a lot of teams start respecting us more. It’s great to finally win.”
The Wizards were once again without rookie Bradley Beal, who missed his fourth consecutive game with a sprained right wrist. The offense had sputtered since Beal was injured on a hard foul in Denver nearly two weeks ago, failing to reach 90 points — and averaging just 82 — during a winless three-game road trip through Philadelphia, Memphis and San Antonio.
Wittman said the Wizards needed to focus more on moving the ball and moving without the ball to generate more points within the offense. He was pleased to see the Wizards record 27 assists on Monday, but the occasional lulls drove him mad at times.
“Wasn’t the prettiest, but we’ll take it, definitely,” Wittman said. “If wasn’t artistic for us. We still had ups and downs from an offensive standpoint, where we just stopped passing. Dribble, no movement. We’ve got to continue to work with that. Learn from that. If my forehead’s red, it’s from banging a wall.”
But Wittman said it with a smile, because the Wizards got the win.