Three thousand miles from home and playing their second game in two nights in a lost season, the Washington Wizards simply had nothing left.
As a result, what had been a double-digit lead turned into another loss in a season full of them, this one 123-108 to the equally woeful Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night in front of 15,123 at Staples Center.
The Wizards (16-53) suffered their fourth loss in five games and their first to the Clippers (17-51) in two years in a matchup of two of the worst teams in the NBA.
“We played a hard game [Tuesday] night in [a loss to] Utah, we traveled the day before, and we’re in game ,” Wizards interim coach Ed Tapscott said. “You don’t like to use that as an excuse, but it’s a reality. We just ran out of gas.”
Antawn Jamison finished with 24 points, 11 rebounds and a career-best seven assists. Nick Young came off the bench to score 18 points, while Andray Blatche and Darius Songaila each added 14 points.
The Clippers’ Baron Davis tied a career high with 20 assists while adding 11 ponts and eight rebounds. Eric Gordon led all scorers with 26 points, and Al Thornton had 22 points.
“Sometimes, you’ve got to realize that they pay the other guys, too,” Tapscott said of the Clippers. “They kept the pace and the pressure on us.”
By doing so, Los Angeles exploited the Wizards’ fatigue, which wasn’t helped by another injury in what has been an ailment-plagued season.
The Wizards could rely on just nine healthy players in the second half after guard Juan Dixon left the game with a strained right Achilles tendon. Dixon played four minutes in the second quarter before the injury.
The Wizards held a 64-51 lead with 1:18 left in the first half, but Los Angeles moved ahead 93-88 with 1:08 remaining in the third quarter. Gordon scored 15 points and Davis passed for seven assists in that period.
The Wizards forced a 95-95 tie on Young’s dunk with 11:27 to play before Los Angeles regained a 105-99 advantage. Blatche’s jumper and Jamison’s hook shot brought the Wizards to within 105-103 with 6:19 remaining
However, the Wizards scored only one point during the next 5:27 and did not grab an offensive rebound the rest of the game.
The Wizards’ late fatigue contrasted with their early energy.
Dominic McGuire set the tone 59 seconds into the game after deflecting the ball away from Davis, outhustling the veteran for it and finishing the play with a dunk.
JaVale McGee contributed his own flash with two backboard-shaking dunks in the first quarter before finishing with 13 points.
After McGuire’s opening basket, the Wizards made six of their next seven shots to build a 14-7 lead, then used an 11-2 burst to extend their advantage to 27-14 with 2:36 left in the first quarter.
Los Angeles narrowed the deficit to 29-24 but the Wizards began the second quarter by making their first seven baskets while lengthening their lead to 47-34 with 7:29 before halftime. Young scored nine points in the period’s first 4:31.
The Clippers devised their own 11-2 surge to reduce the margin to 52-49 with 3:39 left in the half. Jamison retaliated by leading a 12-2 spree with six points, and the Wizards extended the lead to 64-51 with 1:18 before halftime.