At the end of the day, the Washington Wizards weren't supposed to beat the Los Angeles Clippers on the second game of a back-to-back after an emotional win in Denver. That they even got this close is a strong indication that this recent turnaround is going to carry over for a while.
Still, this 94-87 loss was frustrating because the Wizards very well could have won. The Clippers didn't beat the Wizards; the Wizards beat themselves. Too many turnovers. Too many offensive rebounds. Way too many missed free throws. Inopportune turnovers, such as the weird palming violation that John Wall committed that was nevertheless legitimate. And ... if we're being honest ... a few tough calls that may have gone the Wizards' way against another team. You could look at this as an encouraging sign that arguably the league's best team needed to be bailed out by all of these mistakes, or you could look at this as a discouraging sign that the Wizards once again couldn't pull it out down the stretch. It's up to you.
The Wizards could have tied the game on two occasions. Potential three-point plays by Wall and Nene weren't converted at the end, leaving the Wizards down 1 with 1:33 left. They forced a Chris Paul miss, but couldn't corral the rebound and eventually surrendered a Blake Griffin layup on a beautiful pass from Paul. Then, Wall got called for that palming violation, and Paul put a beautiful move on Wall that may have been aided by a push-off to seal the game with a 14-foot jumper.
The Wizards did the basic things well tonight. They played excellent fundamental defense. They didn't let the Clippers get out into the open floor. They pounded the ball inside where they could. Nothing was easy for L.A., and the Wizards fought hard until the very end. It was just the details that killed them. The Wizards committed 18 turnovers, gave up 22 offensive rebounds and missed 12 free throws. The sequence that sealed the game included a missed free throw, an offensive rebound surrendered and a maddening turnover. That stings.
- The Wizards' lack of spacing hurt them in the second quarter. I can understand the strategy of running a post-oriented offense given this team's personnel -- it forces Blake Griffin to play defense and generates easy hoops. But the strategy kept failing because the Clippers sent their double teams along the baseline, away from the Wizards' post players' vision. In addition to that, as soon as Nene, Emeka Okafor or Kevin Seraphin had one foot in the paint, everyone collapsed down. If the Wizards had shooters, they could have made L.A. pay for this strategy, but they didn't have any in.
- The Wizards seemed to be making a conscious effort to get the ball to the corner for threes, but the shots weren't really falling from there.
- Trevor Booker provided a nice lift in the fourth quarter, especially with how he guarded Griffin. Unfortunately, he couldn't breathe on Griffin without committing a foul.
- Nene's clearly not right. Steve Buckhantz mentioned that he's developed tendonitis in his knee to compensate for his foot problems, which is just dandy. He just has absolutely no lift and that kills him against long, athletic teams like the Clippers.