This is a group of Clippers that lives for the grind even when far from whole.
Already short-handed, the Clippers were without their starting backcourt Friday night at Washington, which stacked the odds of winning against them. And yet the Clippers continued to scrap and battle until the end of a 100-91 loss to the Wizards at Capital One Arena.
“That’s who we are. We’re the grind team right now,” coach Doc Rivers said after his team had its three-game winning streak snapped. “They don’t give in even in the games we’ve lost.”
The Clippers, already missing Blake Griffin, Patrick Beverley and Danilo Gallinari, didn’t have point guard Milos Teodosic, who is on a minutes restriction following his return from a foot injury and rested so he can play Saturday night in Miami.
They didn’t have shooting guard Austin Rivers, who remains out after he suffered a concussion Wednesday at Orlando.
So it was left up to the rest of the group to deal with a Wizards team the Clippers defeated eight days ago at Staples Center.
Starting Lou Williams (23 points) at point guard was hardly a downgrade. But the Clippers had to start rookies Sindarius Thornwell (five points) and Jamil Wilson, who’s on a two-way contract. He had a career-high 10 points.
Off the bench, the Clippers had to give big minutes to two more rookies: Jawun Evans and C.J. Williams, who is also on a two-way contract.
Williams had a career-high 10 points. And then there was the effort by Evans, the six-foot guard who started the second half. He had career highs in points (15), assists (six), rebounds (six), steals (five) and minutes played (40:25).
“We went out thinking we was going to win the game, like we think every game,” said Evans, whose seven-for-18 shooting also was a career high. “We play our hardest and play like we’re going to win.”
The Clippers put themselves in position to shock the Wizards by competing hard. Down 18 in the second quarter, they cut that deficit to five at the end of the half. Down 15 in the third, they tied the score at 82 on a Lou Williams three-pointer with 5:30 left in the game.
“We’ve got a lot of guys with an opportunity to play,” Lou Williams said. “We’ve got guys trying to stick and have an opportunity to showcase what they can bring and young guys. When you deal with a lot of young guys, you’re dealing with a lot of energy. So those guys are bringing it.”
But in the end, the Clippers were unable to hold on. A Lou Williams turnover led to a Markieff Morris basket. Then John Wall (15 points) nailed a three-pointer and Bradley Beal (20) made a jumper for a seven-point lead the Clippers could not overcome.
“Listen, we’re going to try to stay in games and steal them at the end,” Doc Rivers said. “That’s what we tried to do tonight. I loved how we played.”
Follow Broderick Turner on Twitter @BA_Turner