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Clippers' Eric Bledsoe a bright spot, with 23 points against Spurs

The second-year guard matches his career high with scoring punch off the bench.

May 15, 2012|By Matt Stevens

SAN ANTONIO — With Chris Paul clearly slowed by injury, another little point guard stepped in Tuesday to lead the way.

With next to no playoff experience, Eric Bledsoe was thrust into the limelight in Game 1 against the San Antonio Spurs and responded with a 23-point performance that matched his career high.

Bledsoe, though, was about the only bright spot for the Clippers, who were blown away in the second half and fell to the Spurs, 108-92, to open the Western Conference semifinals.

"Eric has done a fantastic job the last series and tonight," Coach Vinny Del Negro said afterward.

"Eric is so athletic. … He's a tough kid, he's a competitor. Tonight he had a special evening for us."

It was the third strong game in a row for the second-year man, who scored 14 and then eight points in his last two games to help the Clippers bench provide a surge and ultimately close out the Memphis Grizzlies.

Tuesday though, the Clippers got only six points from Paul on three-for-13 shooting. Bledsoe ultimately scored half of the bench's 46 points, and as it did Sunday in Memphis, the bench matched the starters' point total.

But on Tuesday, 92 points was far from enough.

After the loss, Bledsoe hung his head on the way to the podium and refused to take any credit for enjoying a great game in a losing effort.

"I just come in and try to help my team as best as possible," he said.

The 6-foot-1 guard was responsible for three straight baskets early in the second quarter, which helped the Clippers keep it close.

Bledsoe entered the game late in the first quarter to give Paul his first breather, and would quickly become integral to the offense.

"He changes the complexion for us," Del Negro said. "We can play him and Chris together sometimes, and obviously to

give Chris a blow, Eric handles the point guard duties. I was pleased with his aggressiveness tonight."

He'll need to keep it up as Paul continues to nurse his sprained right hip flexor he suffered in Game 6 against Memphis.

Bledsoe played almost 27 minutes on Tuesday, more than any other bench player, and he finished the game on the court with Paul.

But in a possible of sign of what is to come, it was Bledsoe who would have the ball as the clock wound down and it was Bledsoe who would take, and make, the Clippers' final shot.

matt.stevens@latimes.com

twitter.com/mattstevenslat

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