Five takeaways from the Clippers’ 133-124 win over Washington
Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan keeps the ball away from Washington’s Ian Mahinmi on March 29. (Mark J. Terrill / AP)
The Clippers rebounded from Sunday’s fourth-quarter collapse against Sacramento with an inspired and energetic wire-to-wire effort against Eastern Conference-power Washington on Wednesday night. Here are five things we learned from their 133-124 victory over the Wizards in Staples Center:
1. The Clippers and their fans might not want to hold their hands over their eyes when center DeAndre Jordan, a notoriously poor free-throw shooter, goes to the line in the playoffs.
Jordan made seven of 12 free throws Wednesday and is shooting 59.3% from the line (35 for 59) over his last 11 games, raising his season average to 49.4%. Freeing himself up from some of the fear of going to the foul line has boosted Jordan’s confidence and overall play—he had 23 points, 18 rebounds and two blocked shots against the Wizards.
“He’s been great all year, but the last 2½ weeks he’s been spectacular,” Coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s running the floor, playing with great energy. I love that he’s being more patient when we give it to him down low. He’s taking his time. He’s in no rush. He’s making some free throws and has more confidence in them.”
Said Jordan: “I’m more comfortable and confident down there, my teammates give me a lot of space to operate, and they trust me whether I’m going to take a shot or create an opportunity for a teammate to be successful.”
Three teammates—J.J. Redick (31 points), Chris Paul (27) and Blake Griffin (26)—actually scored more points than Jordan, but it was the bruising center who left the most indelible mark on Washington Coach Scott Brooks.
“DeAndre Jordan was all over the floor,” Brooks said. “He was contesting shots, blocking shots, getting dunks and getting to the free-throw line all night.”
2. The Clippers will need better performance and production from their second unit if they are to win a playoff series. While the starters combined for 112 points and shot 66.7% from the field (38 for 57), the reserves combined for 21 points and shot 34.6% from the field (nine for 26).
“It was an interesting game—we scored 133 points, but I still thought it was uneven at times for us,” Rivers said. “Our bench was not very good, especially in second half. They took quick shots, they didn’t move the ball. We’re at the point now, coaching wise, where we become very nit-picky.
“So, that was a good win, but there’s a better Clippers team than tonight. We’ll take the win against a really good team, one of the better teams in the league, but we’re still better than that, and that’s what our team has to understand.”
3. The Clippers would love to face the Wizards and point guard John Wall again this season—that would mean both teams advanced to the NBA finals—but they had their fill of Wall on Wednesday night.
Wall scored a game-high 41 points on 16 of 23 shooting and had eight assists, mixing in an array of aggressive drives to the baskets, some capped with authoritative dunks, and a variety of midrange jumpers and fall-away shots. Wall is averaging 23.4 points, 10.8 assists and two steals a game.
“It’s crazy, the challenge he presents,” Clippers point guard Chris Paul said. “John is a one-man fast break. He’s been that way for a while. He’s gotten better at making his pull-up jump shots, and he’s a threat to pass. It’s all coming together for him, and you can see it in the way the team plays and the confidence they have in him.”
Russell Westbrook and James Harden are the clear-cut favorites for most valuable player, but Wall should at least be in the discussion.
“He’s had an amazing season, like, an MVP-ish season,” Rivers said. “If it wasn’t for those other two guys people would be talking about him, and not just for his basketball, but for his leadership. He’s a different player.”
4. The Clippers have played some of their worst basketball against some of the league’s worst teams, losing several games they could have and should have won. They will have a chance to reverse that trend Thursday night in Phoenix, where they will play a Suns team that has lost nine straight games and is 22-53.
“The challenge is just focusing,” Paul said. “Every game, we have to go in with the mentality to play hard and compete. Those guys are pros, they’re trying to earn minutes for next year, to earn a spot on the team. We have to worry about ourselves and not them.”
5. The Clippers will be short-handed for Thursday night’s game against the Suns and, most likely, for another two to three games. Austin Rivers, a key playmaker and scorer on the second unit, suffered a left-hamstring strain in the second quarter Wednesday night and did not return.
“Austin will be out for a little while, probably … but I don’t think it will be that long—he’s 24,” Doc Rivers said. “It’s a hamstring, so we have to be careful with that.”