That game? That game was the difference between a team focused on ending a recent slide and a team that is still trying to figure out exactly what has gone wrong.
The Los Angeles Clippers entered this game as an angry team. A loss to the Nets on Thursday raised everyone's eyebrows and helped make them realize they couldn't just show up and be a good team. They had to end their long road trip strong. And so, they ran offense with a purpose, slid their feet defensively like madmen and completely dominated a Washington Wizards team that played like they still had an emotional hangover from Friday's overtime loss to the Hawks. The game never reached single digits in the second half. The final was 113-97.
You can thank Chris Paul for all that. The Clippers' star, perhaps motivated by the manufactured controversy of John Wall "declaring" himself the best point guard in the NBA last month (that's not really what he meant, but whatever), had one of the very best games of his incredible NBA career. Thirty-eight points. Twelve assists. Eleven of 14 from the field. If case there was any doubt who the NBA's point guard king really is, Paul erased it.
And while it'd be simplistic to make this a one-on-one battle between Paul and Wall, especially because the Wizards' switching defense put many different defenders on the Clippers' star, there was a clear contrast between the two franchise players. Paul's team was organized, tough and aggressive. Wall's team was chaotic, anxious to the point where they fired away at the first opportunity to shoot and constantly trying to cover for each other's freelancing defensively. Not all of this is on the point guards; surely we overstate the impact of one single player. But it certainly fits with where each player is situated at this point in their careers. Wall is still playing in spurts. Paul is great every night.
The Wizards have now dropped four straight since hitting the .500 mark. Three of those are at home, and two of those came to bad teams. (I consider the Nuggets without Ty Lawson a bad team). This is not a good team. The only way it can become a good team is if they stop playing in spurts.
- Breaking news: Otto Porter needs to get stronger. Yeah, yeah, we all knew that, but watching Stephen Jackson ripping the ball out of his hands on a standard early-offense pass in the second quarter drove the point home.
- I don't like Marcin Gortat trying to be someone else. What do I mean? At one point during the broadcast, Phil Chenier mentioned that Gortat studied film of himself and found that he passed up too many open looks in the loss to Atlanta. That may be true, but I found him playing unnaturally in this one, shooting too quickly when it wasn't warranted and thinking too much about the moves he was trying to make. He needs to be himself.
- Running the entire second unit out together somehow worked against the Hawks, mostly as a motivational tactic to the flat first unit. But eventually, the shine is going to wear off on that unit's emotion, and they'll play like a group whose best scorer is a second-round rookie. That's exactly what happened in that ugly beginning to the second quarter, when the Garrett Temple/Glen Rice Jr./Otto Porter/Trevor Booker/Jan Vesely group predictably scored four points in four and a half minutes against a Clippers group that included a frontcourt of Griffin and Antawn Jamison.
- I know it's fashionable to not like Blake Griffin, but he has so much power around the rim and has become one of the best big men passers in the league. He's really, really good.
- Not having a backup point guard is killing this team. Wall ended up playing the first 21 minutes of the second half despite the Wizards never cutting the lead into single digits. He cannot keep doing that over the course of the season.
- It's cool that Kevin Seraphin played well, but this just complicates matters with the rotation. One of the reasons the Flotsam has not developed is that its members cannot all get consistent minutes, so Randy Wittman keeps switching different ones in and out of the rotation. Chris Singleton, for example, didn't play tonight until garbage time. Instead of one emerging as a consistent contributor, all four remain spot players. I would be careful elevating Seraphin in the rotation based off just one game, because that'll have ripple effects. Hopefully Booker's strong play carries over and he stays in the rotation.
- Wizards vs. Clippers preview: John Wall and Chris Paul square off
- Magical Pixels, Wizards vs. Hawks: Washington keeps finding ways to lose
- VIDEO: Al Horford's buzzer beater to defeat the Wizards
- Wizards vs. Hawks final score: Washington can't complete the comeback in 101-99 loss
- Wizards vs. Hawks: Al Horford stuns Washington at the buzzer