- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 26, 2006

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Clippers are enjoying their best season since moving to Los Angeles, led by Elton Brand and his MVP season.

Yesterday, they showed why, running over the Washington Wizards 116-101 by scoring more points than they have all year.

Brand scored 21 of his game-high 32 points in the first half, and he added nine rebounds. Without injured guard Cuttino Mobley (ankle), 36-year-old Sam Cassell more than picked up the slack with 26 points and eight assists.

Factor in the 21 points and 13 rebounds by center Chris Kaman and the fact that the Clippers (40-28) enjoyed a double-digit lead from the second quarter on — including a high of 25 points at the start of the fourth quarter — and the outcome was never in doubt.

“They all did their damage,” Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas said. “Sam Cassell killed us. They just played well as a team. We thought we might make a comeback and the second half started as bad as the first half ended.

The Wizards (35-33) weren’t the same team that went into Salt Lake City and claimed a victory in the first game of a huge six-game road trip three days ago.

In that game, the Wizards led from start to finish, connecting on a franchise-record 16 3-pointers.

But yesterday, the Clippers — winners of 40 games for the first time since the 1992-93 season — shined, not the Wizards.

The Wizards gave up 63 points in the first half — the most they’ve allowed all season — and trailed by 16 at halftime.

Despite the loss, the Wizards still have a half-game lead over Indiana for the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

That his team could come out and look so decidedly bad in such a crucial game left Wizards coach Eddie Jordan puzzled.

“Two different teams — us,” Jordan said. “We were on top of things in Utah. We played 48 minutes of concentrated basketball. Here was just the opposite. I hope it’s just a one-time thing. I’m searching for answers when guys don’t play well; I’m trying to find the right mix. It just didn’t work out today.”

The Wizards got a solid game from Antawn Jamison (31 points), but they got little else of what they have come to expect from their best players. Gilbert Arenas (17 points) and Caron Butler (12) combined to make just 11 of 29 field goals. In just more than 33 minutes the Wizards got a combined seven points and seven rebounds from Brendan Haywood and Jared Jeffries.

The victory gives the Clippers their first season sweep of the Wizards since 1992-93.

After the game Jordan wasn’t alone in wondering why the Wizards came out so flat.

“The disappointing thing about the situation is we knew what was at stake,” Jamison said. “We knew how well this team plays, especially at home. They lost their last game to Memphis, so there is no excuse as far as being satisfied with the first victory on the road trip. This is an important game for us.

“I can understand shots not going in and turnovers, and not playing smart sometimes. But when you are playing games like this you have to play just as hard as your opponent. Tonight they outworked us in all aspects of the game.”

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