Los Angeles The Lakers used to be the basketball team that ruled this town and the Clippers were relegated to status as the other NBA team in Los Angeles. The Lakers have not faded, but the Clippers are now the significant other.
Gone are the days when teams used to consider games against the Clippers, the better option when playing on the road here. It used to be 70s sitcom star Penny Marshalls passion for the Clippers trumped the play on the court. Now Marshall is the first fan of a team pushing to be first in L.A. and the NBA.
The match-up against the Clippers is not a great draw on the schedule for the Wizards. Last night the Wizards were in Portland where they stunned the Trail Blazers 124-109. The Clippers were off last night and concluded a six-game road trip with a 96-92 loss in Dallas. It was only the second loss on their trip that started with a 107-81 win over the Wizards February 4 in Washington.
The Wizards arrived in Los Angeles around 1 AM local time, but energized from their first win in Portland since 2005. The victory also marked the first time in franchise historyyes dating all the way back to 1961 and Chicagothat the team had won back-to-back road games by at least 15 points.
Thats as complete a game as weve played this year, said Wizards head coach Randy Wittman. I thought our guys were in tune. We told them this is a tough place to play. The key was our start. We moved the ball as well as weve moved it tonight. Nobody was searching. The ball moved and guys hit open shots. We shot the heck out of it.
The Wizards shot 60 percent from the field and were led by Nick Youngs season-high 35 points. John Walls added 29 points and 9 assists, while Jordan Crawford completed the guard trifecta with 21 points off the bench. JaVale McGee just missed out on a third consecutive game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. McGee had 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Beyond the individual numbers the Wizards are playing with what appears to be a new found confidence and resilience. Basketball truly is a game of a runs and the Wizards at the beginning of the season had a tendency to fold when their opponents pushed back. Thats when a panic would set it and mistakes would follow.
We kind of played scared a little bit when that happened, but were not now, said Wittman of his teams past troubles handling pressure. Youve got first- and second-year guys that now understand that you have to continue to attack and not worry about what the other team is doing so much.
The Clippers defeated the Wizards despite 23 turnovers and poor shooting from the free throw line. Chris Paul only had 2 points to go with 7 assists. Stats can be deceiving, but the Clippers dominance on the boards with a 53-32 rebounding advantage proved to be too much for the Wizards to overcome.
On their just completed road trip the Clippers lost Chauncey Billups to a torn left achilles tendon suffered in a win against Orlando. Billups is out for the remainder of the season and has been replaced in the starting lineup by Randy Foye. The Clippers are now a destination team for free agents and veteran forward Kenyon Martin, just signed last week, is now part of the rotation.