- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 27, 2004

LOS ANGELES — Washington Wizards point guard Steve Blake hadn’t been this aggravated following a game all season. But after committing nine of the Wizards’ 24 turnovers Tuesday in an eight-point loss at Utah, Blake sat motionless in front of his locker.

“I have to do better than that,” he said.

Which is exactly what he did in Thursday night’s 103-94 victory against the Los Angeles Clippers. In fact, Blake played a nearly perfect game. In 18 minutes, he scored 17 points, made all six of his field goal attempts, including three 3-pointers, and was 2-for-2 from the foul line.

Most importantly to Blake, he turned the ball over once against the Clippers, who cut what had been a 22-6 Washington lead to two points twice in the fourth quarter.

In each of those instances, Blake responded, finding Kwame Brown for a dunk and then knocking down one of his 3s. That basket came with 2:25 remaining and triggered a 9-2 run that put the game out of reach.

“Coach [Eddie Jordan] set up a play for me to come off a screen and make a big shot, and I was able to knock it down,” Blake said. “From that point on, everyone was either playing good defense or making the plays we had to make to win the game.”

Take out the turnovers against Utah and Blake finished with a respectable line that included 16 points and a career-high 10 rebounds. The rookie from Maryland was 5-for-9 from the floor and shot the ball well from long range, making three of six 3-pointers.

Blake’s play against the Clippers was crucial for the Wizards, who last night continued their Western Conference swing with a late game in Golden State, but it was Larry Hughes who provided the biggest lift with 30 points and 12 rebounds as Washington won only its seventh road game in 34 tries.

With the Wizards leading 42-41, Hughes scored 11 points in the final two minutes of the first half against the Clippers’ zone defense to give the Wizards a 53-46 edge.

“Larry got it going early,” Jordan said. “There was a point where he hit three 3s near the end of the first half. The Clippers had just put on a run, but Larry’s shooting helped us go to the locker room with a little cushion.”

Overall, Washington made 11-for-26 from behind the 3-point line.

Corey Maggette led the Clippers, losers of 16 of their last 19 games and mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, with 25 points.

Injuries to numerous players forced Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy to use only eight players, something that obviously didn’t work.

“We couldn’t match them athletically,” Dunleavy said. “When we had a comeback going, we missed point-blank layups, and that cost us. I think we played hard, we just didn’t finish.”

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