BEST OF 2012-13: ERIC BLEDSOE'S TOP 5 PLAYS
Over the next few months, Clippers.com will continue its retrospective into the Clippers’ historic 2012-13 season. In addition, to our “A Season to Remember” editorial piece, video recaps, and taking a look back at each individual on the roster, we will also feature a weekly “Best of” series. The fourth installment will take a look at the five best plays of the season by dynamic reserve point guard Eric Bledsoe.
Early in the fourth quarter of the Clippers’ opening night victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, Bledsoe barreled to the rim, got bumped, flipped up a layup while absorbing the contact and crashed to the floor. As the shot caromed in to tie the score, Bledsoe sat up and flexed his biceps as if he were mimicking the letter “H” above his head.
The play was something that became almost ordinary for Bledsoe in the first 50 or so games of the 2012-13 season. He was electric, a sparkplug off the best bench in the league. Even though a Feb. 21 calf injury derailed his candidacy for the NBA’s most improved player award. He surpassed his two-year total in double-figure scoring games in less than half a season and became something of a nightly spectacle in terms of highlight plays. One night it was blocked shot, the next a dunk, the next a steal.
Narrowing down the list to five was seemingly exhaustive, which is why there is a bonus dunk and a bonus block. The following top five was determined by the degree of difficulty of the play, public reaction, athleticism and the ever-so accurate “eyeball test.” Here are the five best:
5. 1/15 at Rockets: Swipe Lin, Lob to Jordan
In his second start in place of superstar Chris Paul (bruised right kneecap), Bledsoe got things going early. After Blake Griffin missed a jumper from the left elbow Jeremy Lin attempted to push the ball ahead to ignite a fast break for the Rockets. Bledsoe, who was known at times to create a fast break on his own because of his uncanny foot speed, leapt up, tipped the ball to himself and while maintaining his footing lobbed the ball ahead to DeAndre Jordan for a dunk.
4. 12/21 vs. Kings: Watch the Backboard
The chase-down block has become synonymous with LeBron James and one Tayshaun Prince play against Reggie Miller in the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals, but Bledsoe is probably the master of the chase-down by point guards. He had 55 blocked shots in 2012-13 and three made the list. While this one is merely the second best of the season, it is possibly the most violent. Bledsoe stalks then-Kings rookie Thomas Robinson, swats Robinson’s layup attempt off the backboard, and crashes to the floor. Bledsoe was slow to get up after the play culminated with a Ronny Turiaf dunk on the other end, but as the veritable iron man showed all season, he would be okay.
3. 12/21 vs. Kings: CP Over the Shoulder on the Break
In the same game as the Robinson block, Bledsoe also was the recipient of his best alley-oop of the season. On a breakaway, Paul flips the ball back over his head to Bledsoe, who catches the ball with one hand and somehow manages to throw it down. More incredible is that Bledsoe is essentially the same height as Paul and threw down the kind of dunk usually reserved for the Clippers’ high-flying big men.
2. 11/25 at Hawks: Higher than a Hawk
When several members of the Clippers traveling party talked about the two-handed follow dunk Bledsoe threw down against the Hawks in Atlanta, the consensus was that they had not seen anything like it. Matt Barnes took a 3-pointer from the right corner and as several Hawks were ball-watching, Bledsoe came charging down the center of the lane from beyond the 3-point line. He caught the ball above EVERYONE and dunked it back in. The play, which occurred on a college football Saturday two days after Thanksgiving, is probably one of the most underrated highlights of the season.
1. 11/14 vs. Heat: The Block of the Year
Between Jordan, Paul, Griffin, Jamal Crawford and Bledose the Clippers combined for essentially five or six of the league’s premiere highlights in 2012-13. Griffin’s rejection, or smothering, of Deron Williams a week later would probably have been the block of the year if not for what happened on Nov. 14. Dwyane Wade pushed the ball up the left side of the court en route to a fast-break dunk for the Heat, but Bledsoe paced Wade’s steps and as the two-time NBA champion jumped to dunk over the smaller Bledsoe, the Clippers youngster met him at the rim, turning away the dunk and sending a collective gasp through the crowd. It was one of the best highlights of the first month, and endured on Twitter and other social media platforms well after (much like Jordan’s dunk over Brandon Knight).
BONUS BLOCK: 1/5 vs. Warriors: That’s How You Close A Half
Bledsoe’s second-best chase-down block came as the first half expired against the Warriors and Jarrett Jack.
BONUS DUNK: 2/17 Slam Dunk Contest: Perfect 50
After an underwhelming first dunk of All-Star Weekend, Bledsoe threw down a stunning double-clutch reverse dunk to earn a perfect score of 50. It was one of the best dunks of the night and nearly vaulted him into the final round, a spot he missed by one point to runner-up Jeremy Evans.