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CLIPPERS 123, WASHINGTON 108

Give Baron Davis a big assist

Point guard has 20 assists to lead Clippers' victory. Steve Novak is on target too.

March 19, 2009|Lisa Dillman

So many things to ponder in the great (lottery) race to the Blake Griffin Project and how the Oklahoma power forward might look in a Clippers or Washington Wizards uniform in the fall . . .

That's the beauty of an otherwise ordinary game in March between the Clippers and the Wizards, which the Clippers won, 123-108, on Wednesday night at Staples Center behind 26 points from rookie guard Eric Gordon. Al Thornton added 22 points and Baron Davis had 20 assists and Steve Novak had 21 points, including six three-pointers.

These were two teams fighting mightily to hit the 20-win plateau, with a futile season perhaps resulting in a crack at Griffin, if all goes well in the lottery.

The Clippers, having lost eight of their last nine before Wednesday, won their 17th game of the season, and didn't even have to blow a big lead in the fourth quarter and hang on for dear life to do so. They outscored the Wizards in the second half, 67-44.

It was a community effort, sparked by Novak's accuracy.

The Clippers, who had trailed by 13 points in the second quarter, started firing away at will in the second half and put down seven three-pointers in the third quarter, four coming from Gordon, two from the game-saving Novak and another by Fred Jones.

"When guys are making shots, it's contagious," Novak said. "Baron's been passing the ball so well, finding so many guys. It helps guys, especially like me and Eric. He's given the confidence to us to know we're going to get it. And that's helped a lot."

Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy said that Novak provided a big lift. His players assessed it a little more creatively.

"He's a video game," Thornton said. "A video game. When he's knocking down stuff like that, it's a beautiful thing to watch when he's in a zone like that."

Gordon chuckled at Thornton's video-game reference, saying: "That's a good nickname for him. . . . We just need to make sure we get him the ball."

Said Davis: "You have to pay attention to him. . . . Some nights he's going to be a decoy and sometimes he's going to be open."

Gordon, who struggled with an uncommonly rocky performance on Tuesday at Golden State, had 15 points in the third quarter.

"I was so mad," Gordon said. "I was so disappointed in how I played yesterday and what was happening in the first half [tonight]. I just had to get it together and help this team win this game."

There were other positive signs.

Chris Kaman started to show some signs of life, having struggled since coming back, a natural byproduct of missing 48 games because of an injured foot.

Coming off the bench, he had 19 points and six rebounds, making nine of 10 shots.

"He just feels like he's dying out there," Dunleavy said before the game. "He missed 47 [actually 48] games. It just takes a toll. . . . Maybe not enough oxygen got to his brain a couple of times, things happen. Physically he looked pretty good to me."

Etc.

The games featuring the Clippers' three big men are turning out to be few and far between. Kaman has been back since the Cleveland game but Zach Randolph mostly has been absent following the death of his father. He returned on Tuesday night at Golden State but then Marcus Camby sat out with an injured hamstring on Wednesday. Said Dunleavy: "It tightened up on him."

Swingman Ricky Davis (left knee tendinitis) is improving but not at a rapid pace. "The MRI shows he has some major inflammation, a flared-up tendon," Dunleavy said. "Until it calms down there's no reason to work it, otherwise the same thing will happen again. When they first did the MRI, his tendon was three times the size of the other one."

--

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

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