Postgame Report: Clippers 97, Lakers 91 - 10/24/12

LOS ANGELES–In his 44 minutes on the court Eric Bledsoe was dynamic and at times unguardable, helping the host Clippers to a 97-91 win over the Lakers in Wednesday’s preseason game at Staples Center.

Bledsoe, who started in place of superstar Chris Paul (rest), finished with 22 points, 11 assists, nine steals (six in the first half), four rebounds, and enough wondrous plays to fill a highlight reel. He converted acrobatic layups, swooped into passing lanes, and connected on passes over his head, around his back and over his shoulder.  

“Eric’s trying to find his way as a young player that continually improves. You can see it in his game and his personality and his play,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “I was pleased that he kept attacking and kept running angles and pick and rolls and kind of spreading us out and making plays for us.”

Perhaps, Bledsoe’s most impressive play can in tandem with reserve forward Matt Barnes. Barnes swiped the ball from the Lakers’ Jordan Hill and Bledsoe snared it and in one motion tossed the ball over his head to a streaking Barnes for a fast-break basket on the opposite end.

Through much of the night Bledsoe, Barnes and backup big men Ryan Hollins and Ronny Turiaf provided a boost of energy for a Clippers team missing Paul, Jamal Crawford (rest), Chauncey Billups (Achilles), Lamar Odom (knee), and Grant Hill (knee). Afterwards, Barnes, who had 18 points and six rebounds off the bench to help keep his former team winless in the exhibition season, talked about how the group altered the game.

“It’s just a change of tempo on the defensive end to be able to get in passing lanes and being able to get up and speed teams up and get them out of their comfort zone,” Barnes said. “I think that’s going to be to our advantage this year.”

Del Negro added: “Ryan, Matt, Eric, and Ronny are all energy guys, so it’s good to see the effort out there, the energy, the enthusiasm. That’s what we’re going to need.”

Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard did not play for the Lakers (0-7), but Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace each played more than 25 minutes, with Gasol scoring a team-high 17 points.

Gasol was matched up with Blake Griffin most of the night and the Clippers’ star seems to have quite a way of scoring the first basket of the game against the All-Star Spaniard.

In April when the teams met for the final time of the 2011-12 regular season, Griffin slammed home an iconic tip-dunk, leap-frogging Gasol. This time he opened the game with a 360-degree spinning layup, drawing a foul on Gasol in the process.

Griffin finished with 15 points, six rebounds and five assists over 26 minutes in a game that maintained a semblance of the chippiness that was ever-present a year ago.

Lakers rookie Robert Sacre was whistled for a technical foul in the third quarter after a brief altercation with Hollins and Griffin had a hard foul on World Peace reviewed by officials. Griffin inadvertently whacked World Peace in the face, but following about a three-minute delay officials ruled it was a common foul.

NOTES

Willie Green started at shooting guard and scored nine points, including a fast-break dunk off a feed from Bledsoe and an alley-oop layup from Griffin… Travis Leslie scored a preseason-high eight points in 12 minutes… Out of the Lakers’ 20 individual turnovers, 17 came on steals by the Clippers… The Clippers outscored the Lakers, 52-32, in points in the paint… Asked about how his ability to make steals, Bledsoe said it was his quickness that makes the difference. “I use [quickness] to my advantage because I can cover two people real fast,” he said. “I kind of just go for it and if don’t [get the steal] I try to get back as quick as I can.”