WASHINGTON — The Los Angeles Clippers are the NBA’s new comeback kings.
Who are the Washington Wizards? Bradley Beal doesn’t know.
Luke Kennard scored seven points inside the final 9 seconds, including a go-ahead four-point play with 1.9 seconds remaining, and the Clippers overcame a 35-point first-half deficit to stun the Wizards 116-115 on Tuesday night.
Kennard hit a 32-footer out of a timeout and then, after Washington committed a 5-second violation, sank another 3 running to his right while absorbing a foul from Beal, the Wizards’ three-time All-Star.
Kennard made the free throw, finishing with 25 points and completing a rally that tied for the second-biggest in the NBA since the 1996-97 season. Beal was left to rue a fourth straight loss that dropped the Wizards to two games below .500 (23-25) for the first time this season.
Washington began the season 10-3 but is 13-22 since.
“What are we trying to achieve, honestly?” Beal said. “What kind of a team are we trying to be? I think that’s my biggest question to all of us as a unit.”
Beal didn’t even expect he’d have to play in the fourth quarter, given that his team led by 30 at halftime. He ended up scoring 10 of his 23 points in the period.
It wasn’t enough to avoid finishing an eight-game homestand with a 3-5 record, or to quiet talk that Beal might be traded before the Feb. 10 deadline.
“I’m very well aware of how we’re playing and how other teams are playing and what my interests are,” Beal said. “And obviously I’m a big factor into that, too, in producing and playing well and performing. But I want to win. And we all know that. It’s just a matter of us doing it.”
Amir Coffey scored a career-high 29 points for the depleted Clippers, who pulled off a third rally from this month from a deficit of at least 24 points, following wins at home over Denver on Jan. 11 and at Philadelphia last Friday.
They became the first team to accomplish that feat in a single season since at least 1996-1997. And all of those wins came after they lost seven-time All-Star guard Paul George to a right elbow injury in December.
“This January has been wild,” Coffey said. “You never know when the game’s over. Just play through the buzzer.”
Terance Mann and Isaiah Hartenstein each had 16 points for Los Angeles, which outscored Washington 40-27 in the third and 40-22 in the fourth.
Kyle Kuzma had 19 points and 12 rebounds for the Wizards but couldn’t find a way to inbound the ball late, setting up Kennard’s heroics.
Washington led by nine at the end of the first quarter and held the Clippers to 13 points on 5-of-20 shooting in the second.
Los Angeles gradually cut into the lead in the third, got it to single digits with a 15-1 run that stretched into the fourth, got to within two inside the final three minutes, and then closed the game on an 11-2 run.
The Wizards helped the Clippers’ cause with seven fourth-quarter turnovers.
“We kept chipping, chipping away,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “When we got to (within) 10, I was like, ‘OK, we’ve got a real shot, we’ve got a real opportunity here if we can get some stops.’”
Clippers: Improved to 2-6 in the first leg of back-to-back games. … F Marcus Morris sat out due to personal reasons. … Kawhi Leonard has not played all season while recovering from a torn ACL.
Wizards: Held the Clippers to 36 first-half points, an opponent’s season low. … Kuzma’s double-double was his 19th of the season and eighth in January.
Clippers: Continue their trip at Orlando on Wednesday night.
Wizards: Begin a three-game trip at Memphis on Saturday night.
Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.