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Wizards 116 - Clippers 105

The Clippers started hot, and took a 39-29 lead in the first quarter, but the Wizards doubled up on them in the second, 37-18.  After using a 12-0 run early, the Wizards used a 12-2 run to close the half, and it was never really a game from that point.

It could have been a game except for one thing; none of the Clippers wings showed up.  Cuttino Mobley started despite his sore elbow, but should have stayed in his fancy clothes, as he had more turnovers (4) than points (3) and was 1 for 8 from the field.  Corey Maggette was 4 for 12, and 1 for 6 on jump shots.  QRoss was 2 for 9 and Daniel Ewing was 1 for 5.  In short, the Clippers could not make a jump shot.  So although they dominated the inside early, outrebounded the Wizards by 15 in the game, and got 29 and 12 from Elton Brand, it didn't matter.  They just couldn't make enough shots: 43.7% for the game.

The defense was very bad in the middle, but actually got better at the end.  It's a shame, because the Clippers really got enough second half stops to win the game if they could have converted.

Ewing, who just came off his best game as a pro, had a couple of possessions in this game that rival his '17 seconds of dribbling followed by a turnover' from a couple weeks ago.  The first came when he overdribbled against Antonio Daniels' pressure, and then traveled before making his pass.  The second came after a steal, when he turned a 2 on 1 fast break into a turnover.  In fact, he traveled, charged, and threw the ball away all on the same play, so the ref could take his pick.

All of this overshadowed a great game from Shaun Livingston, who made 8 of 10 shots, including all of his mid-range jumpers, to go with 8 assists and 5 steals.  (The Wizards only had 11 turnovers in the game, so 5 steals for Shaun represents a huge portion of the Clippers pressure.)  If he can make shots as he did tonight, AND realize that he can get those shots whenever he wants, he's going to be unstoppable.

Gilbert Arenas, who scored a combined 35 points in 2 games against the Clippers last season, scored 35 tonight, 29 in the first half.  He's an other-worldly offensive player.  Just amazing.  And he clearly has no shame.  On one play in the first half, Kaman showed perfectly on the pick-and-roll, Gilbert turned back the way he came, now about 6 feet further from the basket, and as the defender relaxed, waiting for him to reset the offense, he simply shot the 30 footer.

But Caron Butler was the revelation of this game, at least for me.  He scored 27 points, on 13 for 18 shooting, including many difficult shots.  It's really tough to build your defense around Arenas, with Butler being so good.  When the Wizards traded for Butler to be the 'Third Musketeer' after Larry Hughes left, people knew he was pretty good, but no one thought he was as good as Hughes.  Well, guess what?  He's a lot better than Hughes.

So the Clippers are 1 and 2 on the trip, having lost to the two teams with winning records, the co-leaders of the Southeast.  They need to win Saturday in Atlanta, and close out this trip strong, beating the teams they're supposed to beat.  Actually, that's pretty much what last season's Clippers team did.  They lost to the good teams, and beat the bad teams.  It would be nice to beat a good team again some day, but at this point let's just not lose to Atlanta.