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Game Preview: Floundering Clippers Take On Rejuvenated Wizards

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The Clippers come off one of the worst losses of the Chris Paul era and face an up and coming team in the Washington Wizards.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Picture

Let’s face it. The Clippers are hilarious. If you weren’t a fan of this team, you’d be laughing too. In case you missed it (lucky you), the Clippers gave up an 18 point lead with less than 5 minutes to play losing 98-97 vs. the Sacramento Kings on Sunday. There’s no way you’re suppose to give up a lead that big against a team that bad. It’s still hard for me to get over. But truth be told, the Clippers absolutely lock up down the stretch with big leads, this has been a recurring trend for quite some time. For a team that struck the lottery by trading for a great game manager like Chris Paul, they’ve sure earned themselves a poor reputation to close games. With the litany of awful collapses this team has had, that Kings game will be one forever etched in our minds. And fresh off a great win against the Jazz that put hope back in getting homecourt, it came at a pretty terrible time. The Clippers enter Wednesday two back of the Jazz in the loss column and are still tied in that column with the Thunder after the Mavs pulled their own Clippers at home a few nights ago.

The Antagonist

I am a big fan of the Washington Wizards. They’re probably my favorite team out East. I love their backcourt between the Ray Allen-esque Bradley Beal and the constantly underrated John Wall. Otto Porter Jr. is taking the sort of leap into prototype 3-and-D I expected a year earlier. Marcin Gortat is unspectacular but steady and Markieff Morris, despite being my least favorite of the bunch, gives the Wizards an interesting x-factor with the ability to swing a game or two with his irrational confidence. Not only are their starters almost as good as it gets, but they really improved their bench at the deadline. Bojan Bogdanovic has been a shot making force and is shooting at a quality 40.5% from three while wearing a Wizards uniform. They picked up Brandon Jennings after the Knicks waived him, and while his shot is still fairly broken, it’s not for lack of confidence. Jennings also averages over 5 assists a game in less than 15 minutes on the court. Kelly Oubre Jr. has strung together a couple of good games and between these three and Ian Mahimi, that’s a decent rotation for a team that initially seemed to have next to no bench.

Sub-Plots

  • Backcourt Contrast: The Wizards have an explosive backcourt, quite the difference compared to a methodical one with the Clippers. Chris Paul has had some of his best shooting games against the Wizards, but couldn’t find the range in the first meeting between these two in D.C. Beal has dropped 40+ three times this season, and one of those times happened in the first meeting where no one could contain him and he raced out to 41 points. Paul is a great defender and he will defend Wall smartly, but these hyper-athletic guards can get past him, and it’s going to be a real team effort to slow these two down. J.J. Redick is listed as questionable for this one, and hopefully we’ll know more about his status the closer we get to tip off.
  • Fresh Legs, Finally: The Clippers got a practice in for the first time in a while, as they just finished an absurd 8 games in 12 days stretch that saw those legs completely give out on a SEGABABA matinee style (who thinks of these things) against the lowly Kings. The Wizards are on a SEGABABA of their own, coming off a gimme win against the tanking Lakers. Hopefully the Clippers come out ready to go.
  • Homecourt? Another first is the Wizards having a better record than the Clippers, especially this late in the season. (In the first matchup the Clippers were 20-8, and the Wizards were 12-14. That was a long time ago.) However, the Wizards are a substantially better home team than they are on the road, as they’re under .500 on the road. One of the last thing that a young team like this one gets under their belt is consistency on the road, especially against good teams. Let’s see if the Clipper crowd can give our guys an extra push.
  • Blake Griffin vs. Markieff Morris: Blake Griffin had a nice game against the Wizards for a good majority of the game in December, and his stat line shows it. But Griffin didn’t show up much down the stretch, and Morris fueled a run that turned a 7 point lead with 6 minutes left to go into a 7 point loss for the Clips. To top it off, this was the last game Griffin played before arthroscopic surgery, so it might have been one that stuck in his head. Griffin can’t let Morris neutralize him, and he’ll have to be ready to dominate this matchup.
  • Music in D.C. I know this is a home game, but D.C. is loaded with good music. I did college radio for a while and Fugazi was considered one of those bands that every DJ loved. While they had some early punk classics, their later stuff veered away a bit from the standard fast and loud formula and involved a lot of finesse with a ton of swagger. This is a standout from their last studio album, The Argument. This track is called Strangelight.