Johnson: Griffin powers Clippers past Wizards

Johnson: Griffin powers Clippers past Wizards
March 13, 2011, 3:49 am
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Saturday, March 12, 2011 9:36 p.m.
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By Dave Johnson
CSNWashington.comWashington---It was the perfect start. With a sell-out crowd of 20,278 at Verizon Center anxious to see All-Star Slam Dunk contest finalists JaVale McGee and Blake Griffin on the same court, McGee opened the scoring with a dunk. Griffin did not get his first dunk until the second quarter, but by then he had already set the tone for the game and had the Los Angeles Clippers well on their way to a 122-101 win over the Wizards. Griffin scored all of his game-high 26 points in the first half.The Wizards were once again missing players. Andray Blatche was out with a shoulder strain, and Rashard Lewis and Cartier Martin remained sidelined with knee ailments. In their absence the Wizards not only struggled to find scoring options, but could not find a defensive answer for Griffin.The Clippers opened the game by consistently feeding Griffin in the post. The Wizards Trevor Booker started the game and tried to use his strength to keep Griffin out of the paint. Griffin still found a way to score with jump shots just outside the lane or by getting to the free throw line.In the first quarter Griffin had 16 points and was 8 of 9 from the free throw line. As a team the Clippers were an astonishing 15 of 23 from the free throw line in the opening 12 minutes. In the previous three games Wizards opponents had only managed about 17 free throw attempts per game.The Wizards were whistled 13 fouls in the first quarter. Booker, McGee, Josh Howard and Nick Young all were saddled with two fouls, while Yi Jianlian picked up three fouls in the opening quarterWhen you pick up fouls as players, you then get in a situation where you get less aggressive, said Wizards head coach Flip Saunders. When you are trying to play against players like Blake (Griffin) who can break you down, then you really need to be more aggressive.With Griffin and the Wizards John Wall, this game was a showcase of the NBAs top two rookies. While not able to get the result, Wall did not disappoint and was in attack-mode from the start. Wall had 12 of his 25 points in the first quarter and finished with 8 assists.Still despite Walls efforts, the Wizards trailed 38-27 at the end of the first quarter. A little over 4 minutes into the second quarter, Griffin managed to get his first dunk to give the Clippers a 49-35 lead. It wasnt a decisive slam as Booker had forced Griffin away from the basket, but after rattling out, it went in.Off the bench Jordan Crawford scored 12 of his 16 points in the second quarter to keep the Wizards within striking distance and only with a 64-55 halftime deficit. The Wizards then responded by going on a 10-4 run to open the third quarter to pull to within three points at 68-65.In previous stints with the Bucks and Cavaliers, Mo Williams displayed a knack for hurting the Wizards. It happened againwhenWilliams added to his reputation by scoring 11 points to help the Clippers on a 23-8 run to end the third quarter. Williams finished with 22 points for the game.The fourth quarter belonged to Walls former Kentucky backcourt mate, Eric Bledsoe. To help close out the Clippers win, Bledsoe scored 17 of his career-high 23 points over the final 12 minutes. Bledsoe also helped the Clippers to a 38-24 advantage in fast-break points.We competed and came back, Saunders noted. When a team makes a run, we try to hit the home run and then all of sudden we are down by 12. When we fall behind we seem to tense up and play at a bad pace and not playing in a very good flow.