Jacob Raim - WashingtonWizards.com
The Wizards bounced back from a tough road trip and took down their third division leader of the season last night, defeating the Clippers 98-90 at the Verizon Center. Here are some thoughts on the game:
1. Early Start
The Wizards jumped all over the Clippers on Monday night, opening the game shooting 8/9 from the field. After the start to the game on Saturday against the Spurs, this was crucial. For a team that has a tendency to go through scoring droughts (such as the 17-2 run the Clippers went on in the fourth quarter), fast starts and early leads can do a lot to help mitigate that. The Wizards' ball movement was exceptional early and Garrett Temple was the surprising offensive contributor in the team's early run. He started the game shooting 4/4 from the field. Temple is in the lineup mostly for his perimeter D so any offense he provides is a big bonus. His midrange game was really working in this one and he had a season high of 15 points.
2. Second Quarter Blues No More
For whatever reason, the second quarter has been the Wizards' Achilles' heel of late. Over the last three games, they combined for 30 points scored in the second quarter. Last night they went for 27 and returned to some second-quarter normalcy.
3. Okafor vs. Jordan
Both Emeka Okafor and DeAndre Jordan are in the top 25 in the league for rebounds per 48 minutes and both guys are noted defenders in the post. They did not disappoint last night. They went toe to toe last night and Jordan grabbed 22 rebounds and Okafor 14. Okafor managed to outwork Jordan for six offensive rebounds, giving the Wizards a number of extra possessions. Both players limited the other's offense effectiveness as they both went for under 10 points. Okafor won the plus/minus battle though at +12 and Jordan was -10.
4. Webster Bail Outs
There were times in the game last night when the Wizards' offense was moving well and others where it was certainly not. During the latter periods, Martell Webster was the go-to guy for the Wizards. He bailed them out with clutch three-point shooting during numerous bad possessions, particularly during the second half of the game. Webster finished the game with 21 points on 6/10 shooting and an exceptional 5/6 from three-point range. Webster also had the best plus/minus of any player in the game at +17.
5. Where's the Bench?
During much of the first half of the season, the bench was providing almost half of the Wizards' points and was the highest scoring bench in the NBA. The bench has fallen to sixth in the NBA in scoring and that was on display last night as the starters did almost all of the offensive damage. The bench accounted for just 25 of the Wizards' 98 points, with only Ariza getting more than five points (10). Granted, the rotation is much more established now than it was during that first part of the season and Wittman is giving his starters more minutes, but the bench still needs to be a bigger piece of the offensive puzzle going forward. In contrast, the Clippers' bench scored 42 of their 90, but much of that was super sub Jamal Crawford's 28.
6. Closing Out
The Clippers may have been missing Paul and Griffin last night, but that should in no way diminish the quality performance the Wizards put together. That was never more evident than in the latter stages of the fourth quarter, when the Clippers cut the Wizards lead to just a point with 5:39 to play. The Wizards then closed the game on an 18-11 run, effectively shutting down the Clippers' comeback chances down the stretch. No one player carried the offense at the end as it was scoring by committee to help the Wizards take down their third division leader of the season.