While there hasn’t been much to cheer about for the Washington
Wizards and Los Angeles Clippers, the play of John Wall and Blake
Griffin has both franchises optimistic about the future.
The last two No. 1 overall draft picks will face off for the
first time as the Wizards and Clippers meet at the Verizon Center
on Saturday night.
Griffin and Wall are the NBA’s top two scoring rookies,
averaging 22.5 points and 15.5 points, respectively. Griffin was
the No. 1 overall pick of the Clippers in 2009, missing last season
because of a knee injury, while the Wizards selected Wall at No. 1
Despite the players’ individual successes this season,
Washington has the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference
while Los Angeles is third-worst in the West.
The Clippers (25-41) were denied their first five-game winning
streak since 2006 on Friday, blowing a 20-point lead in a 102-98
overtime loss to New Jersey. Griffin bounced back with 23 points
and nine rebounds after being held to 12 points in a win over
Boston on Wednesday, but missed a potential go-ahead free throw
with 1.2 seconds left in regulation.
Mo Williams, who came in averaging 19.0 points in five games,
was held to nine on 3-of-17 shooting.
”It’s just one of those games that leaves a sour taste in your
mouth,” Williams said. ”Obviously I’m disappointed in my
performance personally. As a team we didn’t do the things we did
the first half for whatever reason. It starts with me, also. I take
a lot of blame in it. Just not being able to stop the bleeding in
the second half and make plays for my teammates.”
Despite their struggles this season, the Clippers may have a
good chance at bouncing back against the Wizards (16-47), who have
lost nine of 10. They are coming off a 95-76 loss to Milwaukee on
Washington tied its lowest-scoring performance of the season
while shooting 37.6 percent. However, coach Flip Saunders liked
what he saw late in the first quarter and early in the second when
he had five rookies on the floor.
“That was probably our best stint, to be honest,” Saunders said.
“They competed, and we had really a pretty good stretch at that
Jordan Crawford scored a career-high 22 points while Wall had 10
points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
“We played with a lot of hustle, got back into the game, but
unfortunately with young players like us sometimes there are
slipups, so we couldn’t maintain keeping up with them and they got
out to a good lead,” Crawford said.
Josh Howard is expected to be back in the lineup Saturday after
missing the last three games but Andray Blatche will be out with a
shoulder injury suffered Tuesday.
The Wizards have lost three straight to the Clippers.