Wizards Couldn’t Hang with the Clippers

Los Angeles Clippers guard Russell Westbrook (0) goes to the basket against Washington Wizards forward Deni Avdija (8) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024, in Washington.
Nick Wass – freelancer, ASSOCIATED PRESS


By Wole Akinso


Washington, DC—In Russell Westbrook’s return to the District of the Columbia, the Los Angeles Clippers blew out the Washington Wizards 125-109.  The Wizards (9-38) were competitive in the first half of the game—only being down 66-60 at halftime.  Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma had a tough match-up being guarded by Clippers star forward Kawhi Leonard.  Despite the obstacle of being guarded by one of the premiere defensive players in the NBA, Kuzma set the tone early for the Wizards; keeping the Wizards close.

“You know I was trying to pick my spots.  Knowing that I had to get straight to my moves, especially whether it was Kawhi or one of the other good defenders on me; knowing I got to get right to it and shots fell early for me,” said Kuzma.

Kuzma had 23 points in the first half but in the start of the third quarter the Clippers ‘turnt up’.  Kuzma only scored four more points after.  The Clippers started the third quarter on a 9-0 run before Wizards interim head coach Brian Keefe called a timeout. In the quarter, the Wizards gave up 13 points on six turnovers.  By that time, the damage was done.  Wizards coach Keefe spoke about the team’s sloppy play in the third quarter.

“We just got a sloppy with the ball.  They beat us to some 50-50 balls; some turnovers and that really turned the game.”

The Clippers (31-15) ended up winning the quarter 40-19.   Leonard and guard James Harden led the way for the Clippers.  They combined for 20 points in the quarter.  Harden finished the game with 25 points and Leonard scored 31.

Even in a disastrous loss to the Clippers, Wizards fans got to see Clippers guard and former Russell Westbrook.  Westbrook played for the Washington Wizards during the 2020 season, leading the Wizards to their last postseason appearance.  The Wizards fan base did not forget; cheering Westbrook throughout the game, including a big play in the third quarter.  During the remaining seconds of the quarter, Westbrook spinned off a Wizards defender and dished off a sweet no-look pass to Leonard for a dunk to push the Clippers lead to a 104-79 lead.  The crowd went crazy.

This Friday, the Wizards have an opportunity to bounce back against a tough Miami Heat (25-23) team.  Coach Keefe is excited for the challenge.

“We have to bounce back from this and I think that’s a good test as we’re trying to grow and build this thing that we’re doing.  I’m excited for that.”

Wizards guard Jordan Poole didn’t play against the Clippers due to an illness.  The Wizards hope to have him for the Heat to avoid what happened against the Clippers.

Wole Akinso