Wizards

Clippers build big lead, beat Blazers 103-90

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Clippers build big lead, beat Blazers 103-90

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Chris Paul joked that the Trail Blazers' near-comeback against the Clippers made for good television.

``You always gotta make it interesting,'' he said with a smile.

But only to a point.

The Clippers built a 25-point lead in the first half then held off a second-half rally by the Blazers for a 103-90 victory on Thursday night. Jamal Crawford scored 25 points off the bench while Paul and DeAndre Jordan had 21 apiece.

``We all knew what we were supposed to do. We came out a little flat defensively in the third quarter, so we all got on each other,'' Jordan said. ``We knew in the fourth quarter we had to come out and play.''

Nicolas Batum had 23 points and nine rebounds for the Blazers, who ultimately couldn't catch up.

Rookie Damian Lillard's pull-up jumper and Batum's 3-pointer helped Portland trim Los Angeles' lead to 75-69 late in the third quarter. Batum's driving layup at the buzzer made it 77-71 heading to the final period.

Portland closed to 86-82 on Meyers Leonard's alley-oop dunk from Batum, but the rally fizzled and Paul sent fans streaming for the doors when his jumper with 2:51 left extended the lead to 98-85.

``We can't wait until we're down 20 points to say, `Man, we've got to play now,''' said Batum, who had success in the second half when he was put on Paul.

Clippers star Blake Griffin had 10 rebounds and seven points while playing with a sleeve covering his right arm for the third straight game because of fluid in his elbow.

``I wouldn't really say it's affecting my play. Once you're out there it's just a matter of playing,'' Griffin said. ``It's gotten better each day so a few days off will be good for it but it's not something I'm worried about.''

Los Angeles improved to 4-2 in its first game away from the Staples Center. They had a road win over the rival Lakers last Friday.

The victory over Portland came on the second night of back-to-back games. The Clippers handed San Antonio its first loss with a 106-84 victory on Wednesday night.

The Blazers (2-3) were coming off a 1-2 road trip that concluded with a 114-91 loss at Dallas on Monday.

Lillard said the fact that the Blazers came back from such a deficit was encouraging.

``We know when we play like that, with a lot of energy and when we're flying around, playing hard and moving the ball, we know that we can play with one of the best teams in the league,'' he said. ``At the same time, we can't put ourselves in that hole, because we're not that level of team to be able to fight back every time.''

Willie Green hit a 3-pointer to give the Clippers a 24-16 lead in the first quarter, and it quickly got ugly.

The Clippers grabbed a 43-28 lead on Matt Barnes' fast-break basket. Portland struggled offensively and Los Angeles led 53-30 after a 22-2 run - much of it with Griffin taking a break on the bench.

Luke Babbitt hit a 3-pointer for the Blazers at the halftime buzzer, but it didn't make much of a difference and the Clippers led 60-39 at the break.

Portland's reserves, averaging an NBA-low 12.8 points per game, had just eight points in the first half. Their Clippers counterparts scored 25.

The Blazers outscored the Clippers 32-17 in the third quarter, shooting 71 percent for the floor. Batum led the way with 12 points in the quarter.

For the game, Los Angeles shot 53 percent and Portland shot just under 43 percent.

``The first half skewed the whole thing,'' Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. ``The shooting percentages in the first half were very disparate. The third quarter obviously made up for a lot of that in the final tally, but on the whole, we didn't offer much resistance in the first half.''

Stotts said the before the game that he anticipating an interesting matchup between perennial All-Star Paul and rookie Lillard, the ``old guard and the new guard.''

Lillard, quickly building a reputation for his poise in his first year, finished with 16 points. He said Paul spoke to him at times during the game, but it wasn't trash talk: Paul complimented him.

``He can play,'' Paul said of Lillard after the game. ``Portland better hold on to him because they definitely have a prized possession for the future.''

NOTES: The Trail Blazers collected donations for the Red Cross to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy. Fans donated over $10,500, while Wells Fargo and the Paul G. Allen foundation each pledged $10,000 for a total of $30,500. ... The Clippers have won seven of their 32 games in Portland. ... The Clippers have won three straight against Portland.

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

In what is perhaps the most unexpected Stanley Cup Final pairing in recent memory, the Washington Capitals and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to make history this year.

Either it is going to be the first expansion team to win a title in their first season, or it will be a team looking to end a 27-year title drought for one of the biggest cities in the United States.

But what it will not be is the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup.

Going even farther back than the Capitals last Stanley Cup appearance (1998), the Georgetown Hoyas and UNLV Rebels met in the 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Sin City took the first, and up until now, the only postseason bout between these two cities. The Larry Johnson-led University of Las Vegas squad powered right past the Hoyas in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

[D.C. sports and Second Rounds, I know right?]

Coming fresh off the NCAA title in 1990, UNLV waltzed right to the Final Four before meeting their demise against Duke. It also ended up being the last game for Dikembe Mutombo in a Georgetown uniform.

While in all likely-hood this will not be the final game/ series for Alex Ovechkin rocking the red, it may be his last and only chance for him to play this far into a postseason.

In the past two seasons, Vegas has gone from zero professional teams to having a Stanley Cup contender, a WNBA franchise, and lined up to take over the Oakland Raiders in 2020. 

Now time for the Golden Knights' Cinderella story to come up a little bit short. 

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