Clippers vs. Wizards Recap: Walton sparks LA late in 135-119 win

SabreenaMerchant

For one quarter, it seemed like the Clippers would have a comfortable road victory against the team with the worst defensive rating in the league. 

If only things were that simple. 

The game got far more interesting than the team would have hoped, but LA emerged with a quality win, defeating Washington 135-119. 

Kawhi Leonard led the way for the Clippers with 34 points and 11 rebounds. He got the team off to a hot offensive start with 10 first-quarter points, and his jumper looked improved after two poor shooting games. Leonard was also able to play longer shifts in Washington, playing over nine minutes straight to start both the first and the third. 

After a blip against Milwaukee, Paul George started off aggressive against the Wizards and continued his trend of being one of the league's best scorers in the opening period. He added 10 of his own points en route to 27 total. On a night when his 3-pointer wasn't as effective as usual, George got his work done in the midrange in the paint and was still a lethal offensive weapon. 

The problem for the Clippers was when their two stars sat, the bench couldn't carry its weight. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell were their usual selves on offense, but the team's depth was limited beyond them. JaMychal Green was hobbled and only played four minutes, while Patrick Patterson, Rodney McGruder, and Landry Shamet all sat. The backup guard combination of Jerome Robinson and Terance Mann collected a lot of bricks and didn't bring enough defensively in the first half, leading to a one-point margin at the break. 

The second half followed a similar script, as LA's starters once again built a sizable advantage. Leonard had 11 more points in the period and the Clippers led by as many as 16, but they once again started to give it back. 

The Wizards pulled to within three by consistently attacking the paint and getting to the line; they shot 30 free throws and made 25, while still spacing the floor well enough to sink 14 3-pointers. LA had some defensive lapses, including unnecessarily helping off of shooters on occasion, that allowed Washington to remain close. 

As the Mann/Robinson duo once again floundered in the second half, the Clippers turned even deeper into their bench for a spark, and they found one in their 15th man: Derrick Walton Jr. 

Walton hadn't played outside of garbage time this season, but came in during the third quarter and made an immediate impact. His seven points (a career-high) stick out, but Walton made the right reads on offense and stayed within the scheme on defense. His ability to drive took a little pressure off of Williams, as did his ball-handling. 

He also nailed a corner 3-pointer in rhythm, exactly the kind of shot that is always available thanks to the Lou/Trez pick-and-roll, but the shot that Mann and Robinson have not been able to hit regularly. 

Walton's contributions helped steady the Clippers, and down the stretch, the team executed just well enough defensively to keep the Wizards at bay. LA improves to 17-7 and earns it fourth road victory of the season. 

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