Clippers 111, Wizards 105
It wasn’t quite good enough.
Corey Maggette scored nine of his 29 points in the final 77 seconds, Elton Brand added 18 points and 14 rebounds, and the Clippers stretched their winning streak to four games with a 111-105 victory over the Washington Wizards on Saturday night.
Arenas, who scored a franchise-record 60 points here against the Lakers in an overtime victory Dec. 17, missed his first four shots against the Clippers and finished 9-for-25 from the field for 30 points. The three-time All-Star averaged 21.9 points in his previous 14 career games against them.
“I got a couple of good looks, but they were just harassing. And that’s what they needed to do,” Arenas said.
“We don’t want to have to watch the standings, but we have to because every game is important now,” Brand said. “We have to see what the other teams are doing, but we have to take care of what we need to do.”
The Southeast Division-leading Wizards stayed a half-game ahead of Miami, which lost to Philadelphia. Antawn Jamison had 23 points and 10 rebounds for Washington, but first-time All-Star Caron Butler missed his fifth game because of a bruised left knee.
Trailing by as many as 10, the Wizards got as close as 105-103 on a driving layup by Arenas with 26.6 seconds to play. But Maggette sank two free throws and Arenas missed a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left. Tim Thomas and Daniel Ewing each hit two from the foul line to secure the win.
“We competed for 48 minutes, and I’m proud of my guys for competing,” coach Eddie Jordan said. “But there were crucial plays we didn’t make and rebounds we didn’t get that hurt us. But you have to give the Clippers credit. They pounded inside and hurt us on the glass. They get points in the paint, whether it’s postups or drives. That’s their game, and they played it at a high level.”
Kaman scored 10 points in the third quarter to help Los Angeles build a 79-70 lead. The Wizards sliced the margin to five before Thomas hit a 3-pointer and Ewing added a 20-footer with 10:07 remaining to give the Clippers an 84-74 advantage, the only double-digit lead for either team.
“We played hard, but we need to come out stronger in the third period,” Arenas said. “That third period is killing us. Yesterday we got beat in the third period, and that’s where the game is won.”
Maggette picked up his fifth foul with 7:54 left and went to the bench with the Clippers up by seven. He returned with 4:51 remaining and converted a three-point play for a 93-87 lead after Jamison’s two free throws narrowed the gap to three with 3:49 to go.
“Having it get that close, we might have lost that game two months ago,” Brand said. “We’re playing with a lot of poise and a lot of resolve and we are very confident right now. We’re definitely gelling as a team, getting better each game. We can feel it out there and we’re excited to play.”
The Wizards lost starting forward Andray Blachte after he sprained his right knee with 6:23 left in the third quarter and the Clippers leading 63-57. He outleaped Maggette for an airball thrown up by Jamison, then came down on Maggette’s foot and crumpled to the floor after getting fouled.
Blachte took both free throws to keep himself eligible for the rest of the game, but went to the dressing room to get his sprained right knee looked at and didn’t return. He is scheduled to get an MRI on Monday.
Arenas didn’t get many complimentary words from Kobe Bryant immediately after dropping 60 on the Lakers—including 16 in overtime. But he was nothing but gracious when asked about Bryant’s current streak of four consecutive 50-point games. “I’ve always been a Kobe fan, so I don’t think anything negative about it,” Arenas said after the game. “It’s hard to score 50 points — and he’s actually making 21 buckets a game! I mean, when you hit that many buckets you’re the man. He’s putting himself in the Michael Jordan class and that he can score with the best of them. He’s going for a record, and hopefully he gets it.” … Both teams were playing their fourth game in five nights. Los Angeles shot 48.1 percent from the field and Washington 42.2 percent.