Williams Helps Spark Clippers in Second Half
Eric Patten (@ericpatten), Clippers.com | 1/26/12

The Clippers were looking for a spark, any spark.

And with 1:34 left in the third quarter a wild scramble at mid-court where the ball changed hands four times in a matter of seconds may have done just that.

Point guard Chris Paul, in his second game back from a strained left hamstring, lost the ball near the 3-point line on the offensive end of the floor. Memphis rookie Josh Selby and Paul simultaneously dove for it on top of the script Clippers logo near the center circle. Selby came away with it and pitched it ahead to Quincy Pondexter.

Postgame Recap: Clippers 98, Grizzlies 91
But Mo Williams chased Pondexter down, and as the Memphis forward went up for a layup, Williams swiped the ball away, grabbed it near the right sideline, tiptoed, and kept it inbounds with a wraparound dribble.

As he’s done on so many occasions in the last five games, Williams drove the length of the floor and canned a 20-foot pull-up from the elbow, finishing the play at a time when the Clippers urgently needed it.

Lately, words like hot, unbelievable, and fantastic have been uttered by Williams’ teammates and head coach Vinny Del Negro. None of the adjectives may do justice.

The jumper capped a nine-point quarter for the smooth shooting, do-anything guard. He closed the game making 6 of his final 10 shots, scoring 18 points with three rebounds, two assists, and a season-high four steals.

“[Williams’ impact] is huge,” Paul said. “His energy is contagious, the way he picks up on defense and the way he pushes the ball.”

Prior to the game, Del Negro said, “We have to do a better job of trying to balance [the bench production] a little bit.”

And while Randy Foye chipped in seven points in 17 minutes, the way Williams is playing it might not matter. In five games since returning from a sore right foot, he’s averaging 22.2 points, topping a handful of teams in points off the bench.

The last comparable stretch of his career came in Dec. 2009, when he scored 20 points or more in five straight, averaging close to 36 minutes as a starter with the Cavaliers. His output has been nearly as proficient this year in seven fewer minutes per night.

“Coming off the bench you never know what the team needs that night and I always just try to bring energy,” Williams said. “Actually, go to the defensive end and make it extremely tough on my man and on the offensive end I just stay consistent with it each night.”

To say Williams has completely embraced the role would be inaccurate. He’s said it’s been a challenge defending opposing off-guards, chasing shooters around screens, and playing fewer minutes. But he’s adapted, in part, because as Del Negro has repeatedly said that’s what professionals do.

On Thursday, Williams played the entire fourth quarter, keeping another former All-Star, Chauncey Billups, on the bench as Williams shared the floor with Paul, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan. It was the first time that both Billups and Williams have been active and the latter guard closed the game.

“Mo was playing well,” Del Negro said. “I thought Chauncey, the last couple of games, has been a little bit off. When guys are going well, I’m going to use them. That’s what a team is all about.”

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