WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards lost to the L.A. Clippers 116-115 on Tuesday night at Capital One Arena. Here are five observations from what went down...
For a franchise that has suffered many defeats over the years, few have come as crushing and unexpected as the one they endured on Tuesday night at Capital One Arena. The Wizards led the Clippers by 35 points in the first half, only to see it diminish rapidly in a second half in which they were outscored 80-47. They left the court stunned following a Luke Kennard four-point play that gave L.A. their very first lead of the night with 1.9 seconds to go.
That play followed a five-second inbound violation by Kyle Kuzma on the other end, the type of mistake you rarely see at the NBA level. Given the lead they blew and how it ended, this has to be among the most shocking losses the Wizards have ever taken. It could go down with the fateful Michael Ruffin/Morris Peterson game in 2007. Wes Unseld Jr. happened to be a Wizards assistant coach back then.
The Wizards' loss featured the second-biggest blown lead in the play-by-play era, which dates back to 1996-97. This surpassed a 23-point lead the Wizards gave up in a loss to the Warriors back in 2007-08.
This was a harrowing loss and the fourth straight for the Wizards. They have lost five of their last six and at 23-25 sit two games under .500 for the first time this season. It is unfortunate timing with possibly the most difficult six-game stretch of the schedule up next.
Huge first half
The Wizards built their 35-point lead thanks to a big run to open the game and then another one to start the second quarter. They ran out to a 17-2 lead to start the game and then topped that with a 24-2 run to kick off the second. The latter pushed their lead to 35, which marked the largest lead for the Wizards in any game this season.
The 36 points the Clippers scored in the first half were the fewest allowed by the Wizards in a first half in three years. L.A. shot just 29.5% from the field and 25% from three in the first half. They missed their first 10 shots to open the game. The Wizards, meanwhile, shot 52.4% in the first half, including 6-of-14 (42.9%) from three. They were also 16-for-17 from the free-throw line. It was probably the best half of basketball the Wizards have played all season.
Horrific second half
As good as the Wizards were in the first half, they were equally as bad in the second. The 80 points the Wizards allowed stood out the most, as it was only the third time they have allowed that many in the second half since 1974. The Clippers scored 40 points in the third and fourth quarters. The Wizards had eight turnovers in the fourth quarter alone.
The Kuzma five-second violation was one of many mistakes by the Wizards in the fourth. They also missed five free throws and wasted many possessions with poor ball movement and late shot clock heaves. It was just a terrible display of offense and because of it the Wizards can only blame themselves for this one.
Gafford vanished again
Apparently, there isn't anything Daniel Gafford can do at the moment to earn more minutes, given the team's three-center rotation and the apparent necessity to play Thomas Bryant and Montrezl Harrell their fair share. Gafford came out on fire with 10 points in 6 1/2 minutes on 4-for-5 shooting. He had a great chase-down block on Justise Winslow to prevent a fastbreak basket. He was playing great.
But the Wizards didn't play him the rest of the first half after that, instead giving Bryant nine minutes and Harrell the other 8 1/2. Gafford ended up logging only 12 minutes on the night, finishing with 12 points, three rebounds and two blocks. Unseld Jr. indicated in his pregame press conference that the Wizards' current plan of making sure Bryant and Rui Hachimura play a certain amount of minutes won't last much longer. Fairly soon, he hopes there will be more equal opportunity for earning minutes.
11 to 10
When the Wizards got a wave of players back, at first it appeared they would have an 11 or 12-man rotation to trim down to 9 or 10. Well, it appears they have settled on a group of 10, taking them one step closer to finding a more permanent group to move forward with. Aaron Holiday was already on the outskirts and now Davis Bertans has joined him.
Bertans didn't play at all and also had a DNP five games ago. On Sunday, he only appeared once the game was well out of hand. The Wizards have some depth at forward and with rookie Corey Kispert showing promise, they don't seem to miss Bertans' potential as a shooter. It's a tough break for Bertans, as the Wizards are one of the league's worst three-point shooting teams and he is paid for his shooting, yet he still can't see the floor.