- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 8, 2019

The Washington Wizards illustrated something Sunday that’s pretty obvious in hindsight: The LA Clippers aren’t as scary when their two star players are off the floor for a breather.

At halftime, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and the Clippers’ other three starters all had positive plus-minus ratings, while all five Washington starters were in the negative. Yet it was mirrored in the second part of the box score. All of the Wizards‘ bench players had positive plus-minuses, and all of the Clippers’ were negative.

Washington mainly had Davis Bertans and Troy Brown Jr. to thank for that. The pair of sharpshooting wings came off the bench but played starters’ minutes and led the Wizards in scoring. But the Clippers locked the game down in the fourth quarter and left Capital One Arena with a 135-119 win.

QUIZ: Can you match the nickname to the NBA player?

Bertans tied his season high of 25 points set just two games ago, shooting 6 of 12 from 3-point range to get there. Brown scored a season-high 22 on 9-for-12 shooting from the floor, adding five rebounds and four assists. Bradley Beal put up 20 points.

Rui Hachimura and Beal put together a quick 7-0 run in the middle of the fourth to draw Washington (7-15) within four. But the Clippers then scored 22 of the game’s next 27 points as Leonard pushed to 34 points and 11 rebounds, his first double-double since Nov. 13.

Leonard’s 34 matched what he scored when these two teams played a week ago at the Staples Center. The Clippers won that one going away, 150-125, on a Wizards side that was shorthanded due to injuries.

Paul George added 27 points and Montrezl Harrell had 20 as the Wizards suffered their fifth loss in the last six games.

Washington fell behind 17-5 to start the game and trailed by 10 after one quarter. But after Leonard, George and Beal rotated out of the game, the Wizards‘ second unit outplayed the Clippers’ reserves as Bertans and Brown combined for 11 unanswered points to give them their first lead of the game. The Clippers led just 65-64 at halftime.

Beal started the game 0-for-6 on field goal attempts, but late in the second quarter he scored on a few driving layups and had 11 points by halftime.

The Washington reserves came through again in the third quarter, stacking up defensive stops to prevent the Clippers from making it a blowout, albeit temporarily.

“I feel like in the second half, we had a lot of control of the game in a way … It was really the second group,” Beal said. “They got stops and got after it, and they were making plays on the offensive end, and it was just second nature. Then we come in and try to do the same things, and it just didn’t go our way.”

Wizards coach Scott Brooks is a big believer in Bertans, who has reached double figures in 11 of his last 12 games.

“I don’t think this is a hot streak. I think this is who he is,” Brooks said. “He’s one of those shooters that, after every miss, I think he forgets that he just missed it. He’s thinking he’s gonna make the next one, and that’s a great characteristic to have.”

On Brown, Brooks added that the 2018 first-round draft pick “deserved” to get some shots to fall.

“The guy works extremely hard,” Brooks said. “He had a tough offensive run for us, but he competes, he rebounds. It was good for him to make some shots. Hopefully this is the start of something good.”

The Wizards play their next three on the road: Tuesday at the Charlotte Hornets, Saturday at the Memphis Grizzlies and Dec. 16 at the Detroit Pistons.

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