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Clippers suddenly dominant after crushing win over Wizards

Chants of “air ball” rang through Staples Center’s lower bowl after a three-pointer by Washington center Thomas Bryant missed the rim late in the Clippers’ blowout victory Sunday. Sitting on the Clippers bench, guard Patrick Beverley held his nose, pretending to sniff something foul. In doing so, he summed up the game.

The Clippers never trailed and the Wizards stunk in a 136-104 rout in which nine Clippers scored in double figures, tied for the most in the NBA this season, led by the 22 Tobias Harris scored in 29 minutes.

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It marked the 11th consecutive home victory over Washington (1-5) and the second straight season-best offensive performance for the Clippers (4-2), who leave for a three-game trip to Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and Orlando feeling good about their offense, defense and chemistry, even if, as some in the locker room believe, not everyone in the league sees it.

“Other teams look at us as underdogs because you [media] put so much pressure on other teams, so it kind of works in our favor,” said Beverley, who finished with 11 points, four rebounds, four assists and stayed out of foul trouble for the first time this season. “We appreciate it and like to come in under the radar and beat teams.”

Wizards guard John Wall scored 18 first-half points but was held scoreless in the second half as the Clippers pulled away. After their lead was trimmed from 18 to 10 midway through the third quarter, the Clippers responded with an 11-0 run that included three-pointers on three consecutive possessions, including two by Beverley.

Washington coach Scott Brooks called a timeout to ostensibly insert adjustments, only to watch the Clippers score the next five points after the break. It included another three by Beverley when his defender went under a screen, for a 95-71 lead.

“We’ve got to be able to take some pride on the defensive end of the court,” Brooks said.

There was good reason for the Wizards to defend Beverley that way: He entered Sunday shooting 17.6% from behind the arc. That he drilled three in a row during the decisive stretch was illustrative of how easily things have come of late for the Clippers, who made 16 of their 29 three-pointers Sunday and shot 54.4% overall with 35 assists.

“Unselfishness,” coach Doc Rivers said. “They don’t care. No one’s hunting points, you know, they’re hunting the open guy and that’s a good way to play; it’s the only way we can play, it’s the only way we’ll be good.

“There were so many plays where a guy could’ve shot the ball, but his shot was a good shot, he passed it to a great shot.”

Avery Bradley, mired in the worst season-opening shooting slump of his career until Friday’s victory at Houston, scored 11 of his 15 points in the first quarter.

“I’m starting to pick my spots and try to find out how to play off Tobias, [Danilo Galliniari], Pat; we’re trying to learn how to play with each other,” Bradley said. “We knew it would take time but it’s good it’s flowing a little better now.”

Every Clipper with the exception of the injured Luc Mbah a Moute played as Rivers emptied the bench. Reserves accounted for 85 points in the Clippers’ 133-113 victory in Houston and scored 73 more Sunday, led by 17 points in 15 minutes by Lou Williams, who left after the game to attend his 32nd birthday party. His celebration began early as he scored 14 of his team’s 17 points in one stretch of the fourth quarter.

When Williams wasn’t hitting shots, center Boban Marjanovic was backing down the Wizards’ Bryant deep in the lane for easy buckets. Marjanovic, whom Bradley dubbed “instant offense,” scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds in nearly 12 minutes.

The Wizards never found a second-half rhythm. They shot 39.2% against the Clippers, who are holding teams to the second-lowest field-goal percentage.

“Everybody’s excited about the offense. But the defense does all the dirty work and that allows the offense to score, you know?” Rivers said. “That’s the real hero in the game is our defense.”

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