***[Hmm, it seems like for some reason this was never posted when I wrote it 10 days ago. If it was, sorry for re-posting it.]
This was a Wizards team that’s down in the dumps. They’d lost several close games, a couple of them because Gilbert Arenas inexplicably couldn’t hit his free throws. Arenas, normally a 80%+ free-throw shooter, went 1 for 6 in one of those games. He’s said how he thought if he were to have any problems this season that it would’ve been with his thrice-fixed surgically repaired knee. Instead he’s been shocked to find that it’s all the little bball things that’ve been messing him up. Like losing his handle while dribbling, not making the right pass, not being aggressive at the right points, and not being mentally confident (thus causing him to miss gimme free-throws). A week or so ago, Arenas even called out teammate Caron Butler. Between that, the increasing losses, the constant injuries to Mike Miller, and the magical disappearance of Randy Foye, this has been a team in turmoil. How to turn it around? Visit the Clippers.
It’s one thing for the Clips to make San Antonio look like sure-fire championship contenders, but to make the Wizards look like potential world-beaters?? Ugh. We were down by 17 points in the third quarter, even with Caron Butler having an awful night. Luckily, Baron, Eric & Kaman all woke up and took over the game, using a huge run to take the lead back. Dunleavy took out both Baron & Eric, and surprise, surprise, the offense suddenly stagnated. Within a minute and a half, our two point lead became a seven point deficit.
However, once we regained the lead, we never trailed again. Things looked particularly good once Arenas fouled out (Arenas didn’t have a particularly phenomenal night, but the Wizards definitely seemed to lose their mojo every time he was out). Oddly, once Gilbert was gone, Caron Butler then woke up and became aggressive. He scored six straight points, cutting the Clips’ eight point lead down to four. Jamison then cut it to two with less than a minute remaining. The Wiz got a stop, attempted a three (for the lead), missed, got the offensive rebound, and then had a WIDE-OPEN look at the three. The shot literally went halfway down the basket then popped out. The Clippers had done all they could to try to help Washington win the game. With 16 seconds left, Camby hit two free throws, giving us a four-point lead and making it a two possession game. The Wiz only had one time-out left, so things looked hopeless for them.
Never count out the Clippers to make another team look good. Antawn Jamison, who’d been having a phenomenal game for the Wiz, caught the ball a foot or two inside the three-point line with Marcus Camby right on top of him. Even if Jamison hit the shot, the Wiz would still be down two, would be forced to foul, and if the Clips hit both their free throws they’d seal the game. Even if the Clips only hit one free-throw, the Wiz would then need to hit a three just to tie it. In other words, it wouldn’t matter that much if Antawn hit a two. That didn’t stop Ricky Davis (or was it Rasual Butler — hmm, I forget) from doubling Jamison in nowhere land and leaving Caron Butler all alone at the three-point line. Butler swished the shot, making it a one-point game with a full 11 seconds left. They fouled Eric Gordon in less than half a second. They would have plenty of time to take the ball full court and get a decent look even without a timeout. Of course if Gordon hit both free-throws they’d need to hit a three just to tie it, but they suddenly had life no matter what Eric did at the line.
Eric decided to make things easier for the Wiz. He missed his first shot. Assuming he hit his second, they’d only need a two to tie, and if they hit a three they would get the win. Gordon did hit that second, but the Clips were in a precarious spot. Luckily, the only team with less late-game confidence than the Clips is the Wiz. As former beloved Clipper (& current Wizard) little 5’5″ Earl Boykins drove, he lost his dribble, and Gordon got the ball. Thus, by default, the Clippers won. However, since we gave the Wizards so many chances, maybe we rebuilt their confidence too, so in a sense we both won.
Why can’t we play 48 minutes of good basketball? Even 48 minutes of solid bball would be fine. But we’re an all or nuthin’ team. If we ain’t gonna play good, then we’re gonna play as bad as we wanna.