- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 10, 2005

The taut defense that had been Washington Wizards’ trademark in their 3-0 start was nowhere to be found last night. As a result, the Los Angeles Clippers delivered their first loss of the season 102-97 in front of 13,736 at MCI Center.

Clippers forward Elton Brand was by far the best player in the building. The burly forward finished with 31 points and 13 rebounds and was unstoppable from the field, making 14 of 18 shots.

In the third quarter alone Brand scored 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting.

“We’ve been holding teams to 38 percent, but they were making shots today,” Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas said. “Brand, every shot he took went in. Brendan [Haywood] contested them, and it wasn’t like he had them easy. He was just hitting from all over the place. He was on fire tonight, and he carried them on his back tonight.”

While the Wizards (3-1) couldn’t stop Brand most of the night, it was the late play of Corey Maggette that did them in. Maggette scored 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter as the Clippers became the first team both to score more than 100 points and shoot better than 40 percent (50 percent) against the Wizards.

Going into the game, the Wizards led the league in points allowed (83.3) and opponents’ field goal percentage (34.8) — numbers Wizards coach Eddie Jordan warned were somewhat misleading.

After the game he struck the same theme.

“We didn’t have that connectedness that we needed to have to win this game,” Jordan said. “I just didn’t see a lot of energy and positive emotion. Maybe from one or two guys but not as a team and that concerns me more than anything. It’s a very disappointing loss.”

Of the 17 lead changes in the game, nine of them occurred in the fourth quarter, when the Clippers connected on 12 of 18 field goals.

After the Wizards’ Caron Butler scored his team-high 19th point to give the Wizards a 97-96 lead with 1:01 remaining, the Clippers’ Cuttino Mobley (15 points, six assists) scored on a layup that put the Clippers ahead for good with 36.5 seconds to play.

The Wizards called a timeout with 27.3 remaining, and Chucky Atkins, who came in for Jarvis Hayes (16 points, seven rebounds) after Hayes caught an errant Antawn Jamison elbow, launched a long shot from the corner that bounced off the rim.

The Clippers rebounded the miss, and Maggette added two more free throws for a 100-97 lead with 23.9 left. Washington’s final possession resulted in Gilbert Arenas (18 points, season-high 10 assists) being whistled for a double dribble.

“We just didn’t make the plays coming down the stretch,” Jordan said. “Coming down the stretch we gambled a couple of possessions that we didn’t need to gamble. That hurt us. A gamble here, a gamble there and now they got 5-on-4, and they made the right decisions.”

Led by Butler, the Wizards placed six players in double figures. Hayes, who got his first start of the season in place of the injured Antonio Daniels, finished with 16 points. Haywood, hampered by foul trouble for most of the night, finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

The Wizards have been troubled by poor rebounding, but they were even (45-45) last night. However, the offense still has some kinks that need to be worked out; they made just 37.2 percent (35-for-94) of their shots.

Note — The NBA notified its teams yesterday that their shorts were too low and not in compliance with the league’s new “clean-cut” image. The Wizards had been warned during the first round of last year’s playoffs. The Wizards complied with shorts that were, as mandated, above the knee and last night did the same.

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