After a game that was defined by terrible execution down the stretch, the Clippers really needed to see the ball go through the hoop early and often. The Clippers and Wizards played what felt like a bonafide scrimmage through 2 and a half quarters, with the Clippers hitting Lawler’s Law around the midpoint of the third quarter. The game had All-Star type highlights from a handful of All-Stars on both sides, with Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin, John Wall, and Bradley Beal (I don’t care this dude was an All-Star this year) lighting it up all night. Just as important for the Clippers, however, was the return of sharpshooter J.J. Redick.
Seeing Redick was a sight for sore eyes, and he seemed ready to go right away even if his excitement caused some early miscues. Redick looked very spry and brought that dynamic back to the Clippers that lifts them from a good offensive team to an elite one. Paul and Redick both came out the gates on fire, with Paul scoring 15 points in the first quarter and Redick scoring 17 points in the first half. Paul’s aggression pushed the pace and the Wizards showed no resistance, racing out to a 39-31 lead to end the first quarter. The bench promptly let the lead get cut in half before the starters, led by their backcourt and a facilitating Griffin, built the lead back up to 74-63 at halftime.
The Clippers raced to a 100-81 lead around the 6 minute mark of the 3rd quarter, and then things started to slow down a bit. They only scored 33 points the rest of the way, and considering their output those first 30 minutes, things definitely calmed down. The Wizards made a push in the third and got within single digits, but Paul kept the lead up with a big three and a driving floater that closed the quarter at 110-98 in favor of the home team. The Wizards cut the lead to 108-114 at one point in the 4th quarter thanks to poor play from the Clipper second unit + D.J. and solid play from a staggered Wizards rotation. The Clippers brought back Paul and he made some timely plays, including a big three and a nifty pass to Jamal Crawford who nailed his own corner three. The Wizards then switched Kelly Oubre Jr. onto Paul, and the Clippers ran the offense a lot through Griffin to close the game. Griffin did well, drawing fouls and making a big midrange jumper that iced the game late.
Paul and Redick both shot 9-15 from the field, with J.J. hitting 7 threes by midway through the third. Redick had 31 points, and Paul had 27 and 13. Griffin was fantastic and had a slightly better outing than he had the first time around against the Wiz, with 26 points, 10 boards, 9 assists, 2 steals, and 1 turnover. Griffin had one particularly awesome move on a nifty play from Doc Rivers, where J.J. set a screen and essentially dragged the defense away from Blake as he had a killer spin to the basket that finished with a dunk, a little reminiscent of his dunk on Aron Baynes in that classic Spurs series a few years ago.
This was a big one for the Clippers, as everyone else around the league that they hoped would lose ended up winning, highlighted by the Thunder making another late comeback on the road. The Clippers need to get in a good groove going into the playoffs, even if it means an inevitable matchup with the Warriors in the second round. Better to play well and get a favorable matchup with the Jazz than sputter into 6th and get smoked by the Rockets.
-The bench continued to look poor tonight, highlighted by Paul Pierce predictably leading the crew with a -12 in the +/- department. In fairness to Pierce, he’s not dumb and you can see that he’s trying to be in the right spots, but in fairness to basketball fans, he’s not capable of moving effectively at all out there on any sort of consistent basis. And between him and Marreese Speights and Jamal Crawford, the team is just defensively a mess with this full bench unit. The bench also lost Austin Rivers to a bad hammy, and we all know how those can linger. Clipper fans continue to beg for staggering as it’s been the norm for most elite teams, but Doc continues to stick with this all bench crew to lose leads in the 2nd and 4th quarters. The occasional Jamal flurry that expands on leads should not be taken as the norm.
-D.J. had an incredibly casual 23 and 18 tonight. His free throws are looking quite a bit better to me, but I guess I fall for this trap once in a while. Speaking of free throws, the Milph jinx continued tonight, as Chris Paul had a long streak of consecutive free throws made broken after the duo talked over a graphic while the Point God was at the line. Mike Smith even sort of caught himself doing it. The missed free throw was the only thing Paul missed in the first quarter, I believe.
-Around the 5 minute mark or so of the third, technical fouls started flying, and it eventually lead to Markieff Morris getting tossed. I had mentioned him as an X-Factor in my preview, and he can swing one way on the pendulum by just as easily getting tossed out of a game. During that time, there seemed to be some weird chanting/screaming going on in the arena? It seemed super distracting, I can’t imagine playing through that sort of thing. The flurry of Ts spurred the Wizards on, and honestly whenever I see a 19 point lead in the middle of the third quarter I will never be comfortable thanks to a game that we will not speak of.
-John Wall has had quite a few bad games against the Clippers in his career, but he absolutely dominated tonight. He got wherever he wanted to go and scored at will, dropping an absurd line of 41, 8, and 7 on 16-23 shooting. He was on point tonight. Not gonna lie though, possibly the one thing I’ll remember about this game is Mike Smith commenting on Wall’s “supple wrists.” I couldn’t help but laugh for a good minute. Only Mike.
-Beal had what felt like a quiet 27 points. When J.J. can play Beal to an essential wash, things are looking good. The Clippers switched it up with an array of defenders on Beal, starting with Luc Mbah a Moute, and mixing it up with their guards. Beal still got through the cracks often, as he’s just a tough, tough cover. The Wizards simply did not get enough from their role players outside of Oubre Jr. and Jason Smith. They did not look ready for this game early on.
The Clippers play again tomorrow against the lowly Suns. The Clips followed up a quality win against the Jazz with an equally awful let down against a bad Kings team, so let’s hope this squad has learned their lesson and is ready to go.