L.A. squanders 17-point lead in victory

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Los Angeles Clippers' three straight
wire-to-wire victories weren't as easy as they should have been.

They nearly got caught at the wire in all three home games after
stumbling badly down the stretch.

Corey Maggette scored 13 of his 26 points in the final nine
minutes and the Clippers overcame 20 turnovers, escaping Staples
Center with a 98-94 victory over the stubborn Washington Wizards on
Friday night after nearly blowing a 17-point lead in the fourth

"We want to make sure we keep everything interesting for the
fans and the TV audience," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said.

"We did have that lapse in the fourth quarter where we didn't
do a good enough job defensively. We had some miscues with the
basketball and they hit some big shots. But ultimately, the good
work that we did prior to that gave us a big enough cushion that we
could absorb it."

On Monday night, the Clippers led Portland by 13 points with
8:12 remaining and needed four free throws in the final 44.5
seconds to clinch it, after the Trail Blazers cut the margin to
five with less than a minute to go.

On Wednesday night, they led Milwaukee by 26 points in the
second quarter, by 19 at the start of the fourth, and watched the
Bucks climb within six with 2:20 remaining before holding on.

This time, the Clippers used the same recipe for victory. They
went ahead 74-57 early in the fourth, and led 82-65 with 8:24 to
play before Washington closed to 92-91 with a 22-8 run capped by
Laron Profit's 3-pointer with 27.7 seconds to go.

"They started to come back because they hit shots," Maggette
said. "They had guys who don't even shoot 3s start hitting 3s."

Washington's last three baskets were 3-pointers. But Elton Brand
responded with a driving layup, Profit missed a tying 3-point
attempt with 14 seconds left and Maggette sank two free throws for
a 96-91 lead.

Damone Brown's 3-pointer made it a two-point game with 7.7
seconds on the clock, but Maggette sank two more free throws and
the Wizards finally ran out of time.

"It was a great gutsy effort," Washington coach Eddie Jordan
said. "It was too bad that we didn't have that energy in the
beginning of the game, or through most stretches of the game. We
didn't play winning basketball. We have to play playoff

Brand had 25 points and 10 rebounds for the Clippers, who lost
their previous five games against the Wizards. Zeljko Rebraca tied
a season high with 19 points in 25 minutes, and Chris Kaman had 13

Point guard Marko Jaric, in his third game back after missing
the previous three with a hip pointer, re-aggravated the injury
after just 5:09 on the court and left the game for good less than a
minute into the second quarter.

Gilbert Arenas scored 33 points and Larry Hughes had 21 for
Washington. The Wizards, coming off a one-point victory at Utah on
Thursday, haven't won consecutive games since beating the Clippers
94-91 on Feb. 11 at Washington for their fourth straight.

Kwame Brown, who sat out Washington's previous two games because
of the flu, missed his first three shots before getting in early
foul trouble and finished with six points in 25 minutes.

The Wizards, whose 25-57 record last season was the second-worst
in the league, are 37-30 and are heading to the playoffs for the
first time since 1997. They hold a one-game lead over Chicago and a
1½-game edge over Cleveland in the battle for fourth place in the
Eastern Conference and home court advantage in the first round.

Game notes
The Clippers waived 14-year veteran G Kenny Anderson, who
signed with them on Feb. 28 after he was waived by Atlanta. ... In
their two wins against the Clippers last season, the Wizards opened
the first game with a 25-3 run and the second one with a 22-6
spurt. This season, they didn't lead by more than nine points in
either game. ... The Clippers are 10-1 when they hold their
opponent under 40 points in the first half. The only loss was to
San Antonio. ... The Clippers are 25-16 at home, tying their best
mark in six seasons at Staples Center with three games remaining.
Their best home record since moving to Los Angeles 21 years ago is
29-12 (1991-92). ... The Clippers are just a half-game behind the
Lakers in the Western Conference standings. ... Arenas, who came in
with a career-high 25.4 scoring average, is trying to become the
first player to average at least 25 points in a season for
Washington since Bernard King in 1990-91 (28.4).

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