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HELENE ELLIOTT

Mo Williams makes the most of his time with Clippers

The backup guard gets limited minutes, but it's not limiting his effectiveness. In his last five games, he's scored 26, 25, 26, 16 and 18 points.

January 26, 2012|Helene Elliott
  • Clippers guard Mo Williams hasn't let his new role off the bench stop him from being a valuable contributor this season.
Clippers guard Mo Williams hasn't let his new role off the bench stop… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

This isn't the way Clippers guard Mo Williams hoped his season would go, coming off the bench and being a sparkplug instead of a starter.

But this is his role now, coming off the bench amid a glut of guards and seizing those moments with all of his considerable talent.

He has been doing it well, biting his tongue and biding his time and excelling in a difficult situation.

"I feel good. I always feel pretty good," he said Thursday before the Clippers' 98-91 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center. "If I play enough minutes I'll play well."

Is he playing enough minutes?

He shrugged. "I'll be all right. I will," he said. "I'm a big boy."

Williams was better than all right Thursday.

By scoring 14 points in the second half he was a catalyst as the Clippers pulled away from the Grizzlies and avoided a second straight loss. With 18 points overall he became the Clippers' second-leading scorer Thursday (along with Chris Paul) behind only Blake Griffin's 20-point performance, and he contributed four steals in a solid defensive effort.

In a key sequence, Williams hit three consecutive jumpers early in the fourth quarter to give the Clippers some breathing room, sinking a 21-foot shot to give them an 82-78 lead, a 19-footer to pad the lead to 84-78 and an 18-footer to make it 86-80.

For Williams, who attended his first hockey game earlier this week and said he enjoyed it, it was a hat trick of sorts. The Clippers needed it Thursday as they rebounded from a physically and emotionally bruising loss to the Lakers on Wednesday.

"Every day I just go into the game feeling my way in the game," Williams said afterward. "You come off the bench, you never know what the team needs that night.

"I always just try to bring energy, obviously, on the defensive end to get out and make it extremely tough for my man when I'm on my offensive end. And I just try to be consistent with it each and every night."

In Williams' last five games he has scored 26, 25, 26, 16 and 18 points, the first three while Paul was out of the lineup nursing a strained hamstring.

Paul's return has forced Coach Vinny Del Negro into a juggling act that has been complicated by injuries to Paul, Williams -- he missed three games because of a sore right foot --and Reggie Evans. Eric Bledsoe (knee) is progressing well enough to have been assigned to Bakersfield of the NBA Development League, and Del Negro hasn't begun to think where Bledsoe could fit in once he's ready to return.

Del Negro said he played Williams nearly 18 minutes in the second half Thursday because Chauncey Billups "has been a little off" the last couple of games. Williams made the most of his chance.

"Mo's a great scorer. He's a great leader for that second unit on our team but he can definitely play with the first unit," DeAndre Jordan said. "He gives us that energy and those quick buckets for that second unit. He's really good for this team."

Sometimes that means playing a different role than he wanted.

"I'm strong mentally. I block all that out and I just go out and play basketball," he said.

Del Negro said Williams has been especially strong since he returned from his sore foot, calling him, "as consistent as anybody with his aggressiveness, picking up guys defensively and causing havoc there, and also pushing the tempo for us and making shots.

"I don't think that will change. He'll still be in attack mode and we want him to be aggressive."

But not as aggressive as the hockey players he saw Monday.

Williams is a fan of the game and said his favorite player is Sidney Crosby, the skillful Pittsburgh Penguins center. But what caught his eye in his first hockey game, between the Kings and the Ottawa Senators, was his first hockey fight.

Williams, who said he didn't think he could skate anymore after hernia surgery, was fascinated with hockey strategy and found parallels with basketball.

But the fisticuffs stuck in his mind.

"I don't know if I could deal with the fighting. I'd need some backup," he said, laughing. "I'd need a bodyguard skating with me. I know they've got those, too."

He doesn't need a bodyguard with the Clippers. All he needs is the willingness to keep playing his role as skillfully as he has.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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