After winning five straight games, including a thrilling overtime victory over the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers, the Washington Wizards fell to the Los Angeles Clippers 135-116. The Wizards shot 53.4 percent from the floor and 55 percent on 3-pointers, but were unable to slow down the dynamic Clippers’ offense, as they shot 57.4 percent from the floor and made 19 3-pointers. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George had 32 and 30 points respectively.
Bradley Beal had 28 points on 12-24 shooting, and Mo Wagner had his best game of the season, posting 21 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Westbrook stuffed the box score with 20 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds on 9/18 shooting, but was -26 for the game. Deni Avdija played just 12 minutes and did not score.
Davis Bertans continued his up-and-down season and scored only six points on two made 3-pointers. He averaged 15 points per game and shot 52.6 on 3-pointers during the Wizards win streak, but most of that came in two games where he scored 18 and 35 points. The 35 point game came against the Denver Nuggets, in which he made nine of his 11 attempted 3-pointers. Overall, he is averaging 11 points per game on 37.1 percent shooting this season. The Wizards will need him to step up and be the knock-down shooter he was last season if they want to make a playoff push.
While the loss is disappointing, it was bound to have eventually, and the Wizards still have ample reason for optimism going forward. They are now just three games out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern conference and four games back from the fourth seeded Indiana Pacers. The Eastern conference has been an absolute logjam so far this season, and the Wizards still have over half the season to continue to climb the standings.
Perhaps the most interesting development during the Wizards five-game win streak was the unorthodox lineup the Wizards began using. Davis Bertans and Deni Avdija did not start in any of these games. Instead, head coach Scott Brooks went with a starting lineup featuring Garrison Matthews and Moritz Wagner. While neither of them put up eye-popping numbers as newly minted members of the starting unit, their 3-point shooting was undoubtedly a positive for the team and a contributor to their success over the five game stretch.
Westbrook was a mixed bag during the win streak, as he has been for most of the season. He averaged 20 points, 12 assists and 12 rebounds during the five game stretch, but also shot under 40% from the field in three of the five games and shot just 48.3 percent from the free throw line. Nonetheless, he has continued to show up in big games for the Wizards, and was a huge reason they were able to beat the Lakers 127-124 in overtime on Monday.
The Wizards have looked like a playoff team over the past week and a half, and hopefully this win streak will provide them with some momentum going forward. After returning from quarantine after a team-wide COVID-19 outbreak, they looked a step slow and often appeared to run out of wind late in the fourth quarter, and would let other teams run away with wins at the end of close games. Recent games have been a complete 180, with the Wizards winning many of them by closing out close games. Getting back into the groove of things and beating some very good teams in the Celtics, Lakers, Trail Blazers and Nuggets is sure to put some wind in their sails. The lineups have been odd, but the results have been convincing. Here’s to hoping they have what it takes to push to the postseason.
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