Clippers point guard Chris Paul drives past Hawks guard John Jenkins for… (Gus Ruelas / Associated…)
The common theme this season has been for Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro to turn loose substitutes Jamal Crawford, Eric Bledsoe, Matt Barnes, Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins and let them create havoc.
By the time that group was done smothering and attacking the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday at Staples Center, the Clippers had turned a five-point lead into an easy 89-76 victory.
"Each game we get more confident because we understand our role out there," said Crawford, one of three reserves to score in double figures, with 11 points. "Bledsoe is to run the show, Ronny and Ryan do all the dirty work, Matt is guarding everybody and my job is to score and try to make plays. So we all understand that and we all try to be successful in our roles."
The statistics don't tell the entire story of what the Clippers' reserves did in helping the team win its third consecutive game.
For the game, they scored 35 of the team's points, collected 19 of the 38 rebounds, handed out seven of the 21 assists, got eight of the 12 steals and had four of the six blocked shots.
"We come in, change the pace and bring energy," said Bledsoe, who had 12 points, two steals and a blocked shot. "That's what the second unit does and we're going to continue doing it."
The Clippers opened the fourth quarter with Bledsoe, Crawford, Barnes (10 points, seven rebounds), Turiaf (five rebounds, two assists, two blocked shots) and Hollins trying to protect a 65-60 lead.
They extended the lead to 79-65, forcing the Hawks to call a timeout with 6 minutes 29 seconds left. The Clippers reserves kept up the pressure, eventually making it an 85-65 lead.
The reserves accounted for 18 of the points during that span. Chris Paul had two of the points after he replaced Bledsoe with 5:35 left and the Clippers' lead then was at 14 points.
"A lot of these guys could be starting on a good number of NBA teams," said Blake Griffin, who had 16 points and six rebounds in only 30 minutes. "I don't like to call it second team. It's not like it's that much of a dropoff.
"It's unbelievable how they come in the game and just put the pressure on teams and they increase the lead even more so.…We don't want anybody to think they're not on the same level. We're all just a team."
The reserves scored 20 of the team's 24 fourth-quarter points, and had eight of the nine rebounds, six of the seven steals, four of the six assists and the one blocked shot.
"Those guys on their second unit come in and they are defensive-minded and their defense actually picks up," Atlanta Coach Larry Drew said. "You want your bench to be able to come in and change the game, particularly on the defensive end. And they did that."