MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It was more than just Eric Bledsoe scoring 11 points on four-for-six shooting for the Clippers against Memphis on Monday night. It was more than Bledsoe playing all 12 minutes in the fourth quarter.
It was Bledsoe's energy, hustle and effort that gave Coach Vinny Del Negro the encouragement to use his second-year point guard 21 minutes.
"Every time I come in, I give all I can give when I'm in the game," Bledsoe said. "I'm comfortable right now because I knocked down shots."
Bledsoe had six of his points in the fourth quarter, doing his part to help the Clippers cut into a 17-point Memphis lead.
"When we were down 17, I tried to help us cut the lead down as much as possible," Bledsoe said. "I think we cut it down to three points."
Bledsoe also had a blocked shot and one steal in the fourth quarter.
"I thought Bledsoe gives us such good athleticism out there," Del Negro said. "And he's causing havoc."
Shots don't fall
The Clippers shot 40.5% against the Grizzlies, and 22.2% (four for 18) from three-point range.
Chris Paul was seven for 17 overall and one for four from three-point range. Randy Foye was five for 17 overall and one for-seven from three-point range, Caron Butler was two for-seven from the field, Kenyon Martin one for six from the field and Nick Young missed all five of his shots, including his two three-point tries.
"We just couldn't make shots tonight," Del Negro said.
April is a big month
The stretch run for the Clippers figures to be difficult.
Not only are the Clippers playing to maintain a home-court edge for a first-round playoff series, they are playing teams this month that also are jockeying for playoff positioning.
The Clippers have nine regular-season games left, six on the road.
Six of the games will be against Oklahoma City (twice), Denver, Phoenix, Atlanta and New York, which are all looking for a better playoff seeding.
"For me, it's all approach and trying to improve," Del Negro said. "We've had a tough stretch. We're doing some things a little bit better. But we have to improve in a lot of areas."
One of the games is against a Minnesota Timberwolves team the Clippers have lost the first three games against, one against a Golden State Warriors that has defeated the Clippers twice and one against a New Orleans Hornets team that beat the Clippers once.
"We have to in with the right mindset. We can't worry so much about what the other team is doing, but more so that we lock in defensively, execute the game plan and know that there's a lot of room for improvement."