PREVIEW: Los Angeles Clippers set for ‘must-win’ contest vs. Washington Wizards

Mar 2, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George (13) drives to the basket defended by Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries and inconsistency have plagued the Los Angeles Clippers lately. The Clippers will try to overcome those obstacles Thursday when they visit the Washington Wizards.

It’s the final contest for both clubs before the All-Star break.

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“It’s a must-win for us,” Clippers All-Star Paul George said, according to the Orange County Register. “We wanna go into the break with a win, go into the break with some positive to leave off on coming out of the break. So, the game in Washington is a must-win.”

The Clippers endured their fifth defeat in eight games Tuesday in a 117-112 setback at the Boston Celtics. The Clippers were without All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard, who was a late scratch with back spasms. Los Angeles forward Marcus Morris Sr. sustained a concussion late in the first half after he took an elbow to the head.

George had 32 points, hitting five 3-pointers, and Reggie Jackson, who started in place of Leonard, added 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting, including 5-of-6 3-pointers. But the Clippers’ offense stalled down the stretch for the second game in a row.

George struggled again in the fourth quarter. In losses to the Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday, George missed 16 of 19 shots in the fourth.

“We just gotta do a better job of pushing the pace, pushing the tempo, and just getting into our sets,” George said. “We didn’t do that down the stretch once again, and that’s on me.”

George missed 3-pointers on consecutive possessions with the Clippers trailing Boston 113-109 with less than a minute remaining. After a free throw by Robert Williams III gave Boston a five-point advantage, George hit a trey to pull Los Angeles within 114-112. But foul shots by Daniel Theis and Kemba Walker clinched the Celtics’ win.

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The Wizards have dropped two straight after a stretch of winning seven of eight contests. They suffered a 125-111 setback at home to the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday.

Russell Westbrook had 23 points, 15 assists and six rebounds but committed eight turnovers in a losing effort. Bradley Beal scored 23 points and Robin Lopez converted all six of his field goal attempts and scored 14 points.

“The toughest games are always the ones right before the break and right after the break because everybody is so looking forward to getting out of here and doing whatever they need to do at the break,” Beal said. “But you have to understand that great teams embrace these times and wins right before the break, serving as momentum for the second half of the year.

“This team actually kicked our (butt) a few weeks in the Clippers, so if we don’t have the same mindset, they can do it again. We have to make sure we’re ready to go on Thursday.”

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The Clippers routed the Wizards 135-116 on Feb. 23 in Los Angeles. Leonard scored 32 points and George had 30 as the Clippers snapped the Wizards’ five-game winning streak.

Beal finished with 28 points and 10 assists in the loss.

–Field Level Media