FINAL | February 6, 2013 | Amway Center, Orlando, FL

Clippers

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86

LOGO

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76

 

ERIC PATTEN 

ORLANDO – Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro has said on a few occasions this season that depth only gets you so far if you’re healthy.

As the injuries have mounted for the Pacific Division leaders, their depth has been sorely tested. No more so than Wednesday night at Amway Center in Orlando.

Playing without their top three scorers as well as former Finals MVP Chauncey Billups, the Clippers held down the near-equally shorthanded Magic, 86-76, snapping a three-game losing streak.

The injury-riddled Clippers (35-16) resembled an infirmary as much as they did a basketball team.Blake Griffin (hamstring) missed his second straight game, Chris Paul (knee) did not play for the 12th time in the last 14 outings and Billups (foot) has not played since Dec. 3. Jamal Crawford was added to the group of wounded Clippers after being ruled out about 45 minutes before tipoff with a sore right shoulder.

Still, they held the Magic (14-35) to 34 points in the second half and curtailed early turnover problems to pull away in the latter stages of the third when Orlando went cold from the field.

“We got away from [the Magic] a little bit in the second half just because we were able to control the ball a little bit more and not give them anything easy,” Del Negro said.


Eric Bledsoe, starting for Paul, set a career-high with 27 points, adding six rebounds, six steals and three assists. DeAndre Jordan had 13 points and 14 rebounds, giving him 36 boards in the last two games without Griffin.  And Lamar Odom scored seven points with five rebounds, four assists and a career-high six steals.

Jordan was mesmerizing in the first half, playing above the rim, including a dunk where he spun baseline off second-year center Nikola Vucevic and threw the ball down into the cylinder when he couldn’t reach it with an outstretched arm. Bledsoe, Jordan’s equally high-flying running mate, though, was the catalyst. He was aggressive from start to finish, avoided foul trouble, made seven of his 10 free throws, and buried a pair of jumpers in the fourth quarter to quell a Magic comeback attempt.

“It wasn’t necessarily [to score more], but just be aggressive,” Bledsoe began. “It doesn’t matter if it’s on the defensive end or offensive end, passing the ball, getting rebounds. It doesn’t matter, just do whatever it takes to come out here and help my team get a win.”

Bledsoe and Jordan were somewhat the known commodities that would be expected to make plays with Paul and Co. missing. However, the Clippers also received significant contributions from an unlikely spot. Reserve center Ryan Hollins, who had not appeared in the first half of a game in nearly two months, had 13 points and eight rebounds in a season-high 23 minutes. Hollins closed the game alongside Odom, marking the first time this season he’s earned meaningful playing time in the final period.

“[Not playing consistently] is one of the hardest things to ever do,” Hollins said. “But I am a professional and that is why we are here. That is the difference between a guy being in the NBA and not being in the NBA. You have to be ready when your number is called upon.”

Missing Arron Afflalo, J.J. Redick, Glen Davis and Hedo Turkoglu, Orlando had several reserves in a similar to position Hollins. Rookie Kyle O’Quinn had 10 points and nine rebounds, but it was hardly enough for a Magic team that shot 34.5% from the field.

It was compounded by point guard Jameer Nelson’s scoreless second half. The one-time All-Star scored 18 points in the first half but went 0-for5 in the final 24 minutes in his first game back from a strained forearm.  

“We changed a couple of things coverage-wise,” Del Negro said of the second-half defense on Nelson. “We tried to get the ball out of his hands and make other guys shoot it. And fortunately he missed a few and we were able to get out on the break.”

Perhaps, the biggest difference for the Clippers in erasing a seven-point second-quarter deficit was eradicating the turnover problems that plagued them in the early going. They opened with four miscues in their first seven possessions and 11 in the first half. In the previous three games, the Clippers had committed 56 turnovers leading to 80 points by their opponents.

In the second half, however, the Clippers had just three turnovers and assisted on 10 of their 17 field goals. And even when the Magic made a push to close within five points in the second half, L.A. showed a resolve and execution that was absent in their previous three losses on their road-weary eight-game trip.

“I think fortunately we took care of business earlier in the year, so we have a little bit of a cushion,” said Grant Hill, who had four points and three assists in 25 minutes. “But all of sudden you lose a couple of games and you could go from first to fourth in the West. It is tough, these dog days, you’re on the road, banged up, sick, hurt. You’ve just got to find a way.”

CRAWFORD INJURY UPDATE

Jamal Crawford was limited in shoot-around earlier Wednesday morning by a balky shoulder that Del Negro said was a “residual effect” from the nasal fracture he sustained in Toronto on Feb. 1.

Crawford was knocked to the floor on a free throw rebound attempt, but played through the injury in Boston and Washington, totaling 51 points. He admitted it took a lot of treatment to get him ready to play in those games.

“It is like a car accident,” Crawford said. “You’ll feel stuff for days later. And it was really bothering me today. I couldn’t lift the ball over my head.”

After the game he said he would reassess the situation at practice Thursday.

“It’s feeling a little better now, so hopefully it’s just a gradual process and we’ll take it day-by-day,” Crawford added. “You hate missing games because you’re in such a rhythm and you’re playing every day.”

NOTES

The Clippers won for the 22nd time this season by 10 points or more. They are second in the NBA in double-digit victories behind the Oklahoma City Thunder (25)… Jordan was 6-for-11 from the field and had five offensive rebounds… The Clippers won the battle of the undermanned benches, outscoring the Magic, 25-24…

 

 
 
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