Caron Butler scored nine of his 20 points in the final 2:43 for the Wizards, including a 3-pointer with 11.8 seconds left. Gordon’s 1-for-2 effort at the line followed before Boykins, the 5-foot-5 former Clipper, lost control of his dribble in the frontcourt with about 4 seconds left. "I just lost the ball," Boykins said. "It was that simple. I saw Brendan (Haywood) open up under the basket, I went to make a pass, and I lost the ball. It was a game where we didn’t execute at the end. Whenever you lose a one-possession game, there’s other possessions in the game that lead to that. We played good, but we didn’t play well enough to win."
When the Washington Wizards reported for training camp back in September, coach Flip Saunders claimed "Our Time" as the team motto and had T-shirts and caps made up with the slogan. The Wizards' home game operations staff even selected a song with "Our Time" as the main line. But instead of playing according to that theme, the Wizards have looked, sounded and played more like something along the lines of Katy Perry's "Hot N Cold," going on scoring runs, slipping into funks and falling behind only to come thundering back before going cold again.
Why the Clippers dug a 16 point hole in the first place is quite another story. I don't consider myself a Wizards expert after watching them in one full game and bits and pieces of others, but in this game at least, their problem is pretty obvious - they have three players, while NBA rules allow you to have five. OK, I'll throw Brendan Haywood into the mix with Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, but every single other player on the Wizards absolutely killed them tonight. Now, throw in the fact that of their big guns, only Jamison was particularly good (specifically, he was great) and this really should have been a relatively easy win for the Clippers. But almost nothing is easy for the Clippers - ever - and this game was no exception. Just when it felt like the Clippers should be pulling away in the second quarter, the lid on the basket sealed shut. What's particularly weird is that they must have moved that lid from one basket to the other at half time, because the third quarter started the way the second quarter ended. Over about a five minute stretch spanning the intermission, the Wizards outscored the Clippers 20-2 to take a 12 point lead.
The Washington Wizards rarely get easy points. This season, they’ve had a tendency to settle for contested jump shots early in the shot clock. But during a four-minute stretch in the third quarter, the Wizards went on a 12-5 run with a balanced attack: passed the ball into the paint and then kicking it out to the wings. On two plays, they fed the ball inside to Haywood, who was fouled on both plays but still finished the easy dunks. As the Clippers shifted their defensive focus to the paint, the Wizards made five assisted long jumpers, including two from behind the arc. After Antawn Jamison made the final 3-pointer of the run, the Wizards led by 17 points.
It was during this time that the Wizards seemed under control as they built a 17-point lead at 64-47 with 6:45 left in the third quarter. The team’s calm was best exemplified on a play when Arenas could have gambled on long throw up court to Butler in traffic. Instead Arenas slowed it down and then found Jamison in the lane on a bounce pass and he flipped to a cutting Brendan Haywood for a slam dunk. The calm didn’t last. The Wizards closed the third quarter more in chaos. Suddenly turnovers and bad shot selection returned for the Wizards and by the end of the quarter their lead was down to 69-67.
"When you've got your foot on a team's throat, you got to go ahead and finish them off. We were up 16, 17, we got to go ahead and turn that into 20, 21 and then coast in the fourth quarter," Haywood said. "The problem was, that third quarter, the end of the third quarter, we let them get their confidence going and that basically rolled over into the fourth quarter. It's time to stop fighting from behind and doing the right things when we have the lead."
After that one, all that I can say is that the Wizards are some creative guys. They really know how to script the most excruciating losses imaginable. The Wizards already delivered the Gilbert Arenas missed layup against Toronto and Arenas's missed free throws against Boston and Indiana (not to mention the referee review that rewarded Mike Dunleavy with two free throws with 0.1 seconds remaining). On Monday, the Wizards squandered a 17-point second-half lead, rallied back from an eight-point deficit with three minutes remaining, then failed to get off a potential game-tying shot as they lost 97-95 to the Los Angeles Clippers and the senior Dunleavy. At least on this night, Arenas won't have to take the blame for how the game ended. That's because he wasn't around for the finish. Arenas fouled out with 2 minutes, 51 seconds left, picking up his sixth foul when he tripped Clippers center Chris Kaman.
Despite a number of dominating spurts by both teams, Monday’s game against the Wizards is a microcosmic win for the Clippers. They play strong half-court defense throughout most of the game, but lose the first half because they can’t control the defensive glass.
Huge nights again for Jamison (32 points, 11 rebounds) and Brendan Haywood (12 points, 12 rebounds) as the Wizards seem to be getting closer -- or further. Yeah, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, but Washington has now lost its last five by a combined 11 points, that has to be the sign of something, right? In addition, the Big Three and Haywood were superior on the floor for most of the night, but the Clippers were the ones with the go-to players.
This is crazy. Seriously. Just two weeks ago, the thing carrying the Wizards was strong bench play because Jamison, Butler and Arenas weren't playing well together. Now those three are playing well and they can't get the bench players going. It's hard to get a feel for Flip Saunders' rotations and substitutions becuase many times he appears to be grasping and hoping that he finds the key. But tonight, he went to his bench too early in the third quarter, and I wasn't the only one who thought that.
Best of Twitterville
Twitter / Kevin Arnovitz
Jamison: The man knows how to find a mismatch in the halfcourt.
Twitter / Mike Jones
Maybe Brendan should go back to blogging. His defense on Kaman is terrible this game.
Twitter / Craig Stouffer
could've sworn I just saw a #wizards hockey assist. Can't remember many of them lately.
Twitter / Michael Lee
Wiz blow 17-point lead, let Clippers go ahead 71-69 then score 9 in a row. How do you explain this team?
Twitter / Truth_About_It
Wow. Earl Boykins is no longer "The Closer", he's the smallest f-ing turnover in the world. Off his own knee. Wow.
Twitter / Daniel Eichner
Earl Boykins and I are developing a serious love/hate relationship. Would still like to see him as santa's helper tho. #wizards keep losing
Twitter / Chris C-Ford
Id rather they throw up a full court shot, than not get a shot at all
Twitter / Edward
the #wizards might be the collectivley dumbest team sports iq wise I've ever seen. Shot selection in clutch moments is just inexplicable.
Twitter / wizznutzz
Wizards so weary, the sweet cause in vain. You make love, you break love, it's all the same....manic depression is a frustrating mess
Twitter / David Malitz
god, i can't believe i actually have tickets in hand to 4 wiz games over the next month. forget bobbleheads, when's valium night?