Rapid Reaction: Wizards 98, Clippers 90

It’s understandable that the Los Angeles Clippers might have been in shock when they took the floor against the Washington Wizards on Monday night.

Forward Blake Griffin sat out (strained left hamstring) for the first time in 197 games. The Clippers didn’t find out until a few minutes before tipoff, as Griffin initially planned on playing before feeling uncomfortable in warm-ups.

But their apparent state of confusion never went away.

A slow start transformed into a bad game, which turned into a loss against a team with the second-worst record in basketball. The Clippers were woeful from the 3-point line (4-of-17), turned the ball over 20 times and attempted only 15 free throws.

Jamal Crawford had 28 points off the bench, DeAndre Jordan had a career-high 22 rebounds and Caron Butler poured in 16 points against his former team. Eric Bledsoe chipped in another great all-around performance, with 17 points, nine assists, two blocks and a steal.

The Clippers, who have lost three games in a row, are now 1-3 on their eight-game road trip. They travel to Florida to face the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

Lackluster start

Once again, the Clippers got off to a slow start and had to rally late against a lesser opponent. In the first quarter, the Clippers scored just 16 points on 30 percent shooting and had four turnovers. Meanwhile, the Wizards scored 24 points and shot 55 percent from the floor. That set the tone for the rest of the game, as the Wizards gained confidence and played to their full potential while the Clippers struggled to muster stretches of competent basketball. Besides a 34-second stint in the third quarter, the Clippers didn’t lead after the 9:56 mark of the first quarter.

Bledsoe outperforms Wall

Bledsoe and John Wall were teammates at the University of Kentucky, where Wall was the star and eventually taken by the Wizards with the first overall pick in the 2010 draft. Bledsoe, taken 18th overall in that draft, got the best of Wall in this matchup, outscoring the Washington guard 17 points to 13, dishing out more assists (9 to 8) and shooting better from the floor (7-for-14 compared to 6-for-18). In the end, Wall got the win, but Bledsoe’s performance shows just how far he’s come this season.

Injury bug affecting playoff seeding

There’s no denying the Clippers have one of the deepest teams in the league. But that depth has been put to the test over the past couple of weeks. To say the Clippers are banged up would be an understatement: Paul has missed eight straight games, Griffin is listed day-to-day, Crawford has a broken nose and Billups has played in only three games this season.

With their third straight loss, the Clippers (34-16) are now just two games ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies (30-16) for the 3-seed, with the Golden State Warriors (30-17) and Denver Nuggets (30-18) also nipping at their heels.