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Clippers get their first win, beat Thunder, 107-92

Rookie guard Bledsoe leads the way with speed and style, and L.A. stops their four-game losing streak to start the season.

November 03, 2010|By Baxter Holmes

The Clippers stack losses before wins, an annual tradition, it seems. Last season, an 0-4 start; the season before that, 0-6; and four games into Wednesday night, four more losses.

But the Clippers dusted off the win column by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder, 107-92, at Staples Center, just in time for a four-game trip to Denver, Utah, New Orleans and San Antonio beginning Friday.

Wednesday's victory was a showcase for rookie guard Eric Bledsoe, who started for the second straight game and made the absence of guards Baron Davis (left knee, conditioning) and Randy Foye (hamstring) an afterthought.

Bledsoe, one year removed from his freshman season at Kentucky, faced the Thunder's Russell Westbrook, a strong, aggressive point guard who had played at UCLA and is considered among the NBA's finest.

But Bledsoe mimicked Westbrook's style, going right at him all night, pushing the ball hard in transition, often to the lane for a layup or a kick-out pass.

In one third-quarter sequence, Bledsoe took an outlet pass, outraced trailing defenders down the court until he was beneath the basket and then kicked out to an open Ryan Gomes in the corner, who buried a three-point jumper to give the Clippers a 70-52 lead.

In the fourth, Bledsoe got the crowd roaring with a floating alley-oop on a broken play that center DeAndre Jordan slammed to put the Clippers up 83-66.

"They just told me they like my speed, just play my speed, so that's what I did: I played at my regular speed, but I stayed under control doing it," Bledsoe said.

He finished with 17 points on seven-of-10 shooting with eight assists, helping push the Clippers' lead to as many as 22 points and giving Coach Vinny Del Negro the up-tempo offense he wanted but hadn't seen with his injured guards.

"The credit goes to Eric," Del Negro said. "He's so athletic. He's so fast. That's just a huge advantage for him. He's having fun right now, and he should."

The Clippers led by 19 in the second quarter, but the Thunder trimmed that to 10 at halftime. The Clippers were able to build their lead up to 21 in the third quarter, but the Thunder again whittled that to 14 entering the fourth quarter.

But the Clippers' lead swelled again as they kept running behind Bledsoe and Eric Gordon, who, playing point guard and shooting guard for the second consecutive game, scored a game-high 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting.

Forward Blake Griffin, in his first game against his hometown team, added 18 points and nine rebounds.

Overall, the Clippers, previously the third worst shooting team in the NBA (39.87%), shot 52.5% from the floor, 42 of 80. Meanwhile, the Thunder, previously the NBA's second worst shooting team (39.9%), misfired plenty in a 34-for-90 (37.8%) performance.

Last season's scoring champion Kevin Durant didn't near the 28.7 points he had been averaging in 10 games against the Clippers. He made six of 24 shots for 16 points.

"We're not built right now to handle Baron and Randy being out in the Western Conference ... but it's a great learning process for these young players," Del Negro said.

As it stands, there are now two winless teams in the NBA. And the Clippers aren't among them.

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