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Clippers finally check lag against Wizards

PRO BASKETBALL

In first game after six-game trip, L.A. pulls away in the fourth quarter for a 102-84 victory over Washington.

February 15, 2012|By Baxter Holmes
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Eleven days ago, the Clippers turned the Verizon Center in Washington into their playground.

They had rolled in to commence a 10-day, six-game trip and moved on after a no-sweat, 26-point demolition of the Wizards, their largest win in the nation's capital.

On Wednesday, the Clippers were home, seemingly safe and sound, with their first game back in their quarters against those same lowly Wizards.

Only those woebegone Wizards made the Clippers look jet-lagged and heavy-legged, turning what was expected to be an L.A. blowout into a grinder, which the Clippers won by a deceiving score of 102-84, before 19,135 at Staples Center.

It wasn't that easy.

The teams exchanged leads most of the night until the Clippers managed an eight-point advantage going into the fourth quarter off the back off a momentum-shifting alley-oop dunk by Blake Griffin.

In the final quarter, the Clippers' offense, sparked by that slam, continued to wake up while the Wizards, who were playing for the second consecutive night, started to wear down.

A Randy Foye three-point shot with 6 minutes 57 seconds left put the Clippers ahead by 12.

A Chris Paul three-pointer with 3:52 left put them ahead by 14.

A DeAndre Jordan alley-oop dunk with 3:00 left put them ahead by 18.

Clippers fans started filing out after that, resting easy after a nerve-racking night.

Griffin had a game-high 23 points and 15 rebounds and Caron Butler lit up his former team with 21 points, making five of the Clippers' game-swinging 11 three-point shots.

Paul struggled shooting but had 16 points and nine assists. Jordan added 11 points and nine rebounds.

The Clippers (18-9) escaped a pride-swallowing loss, which would have marked the team's first set of consecutive losses since last season and ended a six-game winning streak against the Wizards.

"I think everybody was getting used to being back home and the time change and all that," Griffin said. "But we've got to make sure we don't let that happen in the future because we'll have more road trips like that."

To be sure, the Wizards (7-23) came in with hot hands, having won two consecutive road games by at least 15 points, something the franchise had never done before. One of those wins was a Valentine's Day massacre of Portland in which Washington scored a season-high 124 points.

That incendiary offense stayed sizzling for three quarters against the Clippers, who, to be sure, were minus a key cog (guard Chauncey Billups, out with a season-ending injury) from their last meeting.

"Offensively, I thought we couldn't get in any kind of a rhythm in the first half," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said.

But they did have a new cog in this one: forward Kenyon Martin, who had four points and three rebounds as the crowd cheered him on during his 23-minute home debut.

Still, the Clippers essentially slouched into the game — unlike the Wizards, who looked hungry and full of vim and vigor behind the up-tempo pace set by speedy guard John Wall, who kept the score near even and nearly posted a double-double (nine points, eight assists) by halftime.

Wall finished with 18 points, 12 assists and six rebounds. The Wizards also had 18 points from center JaVale McGee.

For the Clippers, it's on to a TNT game in Portland, which will be playing the third game of a back-to-back-to-back.

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

twitter.com/baxterholmes

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