BLEDSOE PROVIDES SECOND-HALF ENERGY BOOST
LOS ANGELES - It hardly shows up in the box score, considering Cleveland’s 14 3-point baskets and 18 offensive rebounds, but the Clippers’ scrambling comeback attempt in the final quarter was predicated on their defensive effort. And reserve point guard Eric Bledsoe, who was summoned from the bench for more than 17 second-half minutes, helped spur the rediscovered energy.
After a somewhat lackluster first half, Bledsoe came on to play his usual disruptive defense on the ball and initiate some easy offense for the Clippers. He finished the game with 11 points, four steals, five assists and five rebounds in a season-high 26 minutes.
“I did come in there and bring energy, but my teammates were right behind me,” Bledsoe said. “When I came down and dug [for steals] my bigs were right behind me, so a lot of credit goes to my teammates.”
The most effective lineup for the Clippers in the final quarter included a backcourt of Bledsoe and Chris Paul with Jamal Crawford sliding up to the small forward spot and Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan up front.
During one stretch Jordan had two blocks and a defensive rebound in traffic and was rewarded with a lob from Bledsoe on the other end. Jordan finished with five blocks in the game.
Early in the fourth Bledsoe rebounded one of Dion Waiters’ misses, and five seconds later wound up getting fouled on a layup attempt. He connected on both free throws to bring the Clippers to within four, but C.J. Miles answered with a corner 3-pointer.
After a brief spell on the bench, Bledsoe came back with 6:11 to go and, along with Jordan, was a defensive catalyst for a 9-0 Clipper run. Paul assisted or scored on each of the baskets, but it was Bledsoe’s pressure that helped force two misses and a turnover from Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving.
The defensive intensity, though, proved too little too late, according to Jordan.
“We just have to come out with the same intensity [early] as we did in the second half,” the Clippers center said. “We’re turning it on late and that’s been our problem these last two games.”
Following the game, Bledsoe said the team is learning a valuable early-season lesson, regardless of if it seemed like a repeat performance from a game earlier.
“It’s just the beginning of the season,” Bledsoe said. “I think we need a couple of losses like this to change everyone’s perspective on this team. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t bring it every night then nothing matters.”