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Clippers basketball

Clippers go play in Vegas, and it isn't Win City

Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups were sidelined for the Clippers' 106-104 loss to the Denver Nuggets in Las Vegas Saturday.

October 07, 2012|By Baxter Holmes, Los Angeles Times
  • Eric Bledsoe drives the lane between Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari.
Eric Bledsoe drives the lane between Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari. (David Becker / Associated…)

LAS VEGAS — Good luck using NBA preseason games as a definitive window into a team's future. Gleaning truth from these halfhearted affairs is a task for the foolhardy.

But for the Clippers, Saturday's game against Denver at Mandalay Bay here offered even fewer absolutes, as both Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups were sidelined.

There were a few certainties, though, in the Clippers' first competitive game — a 106-104 loss, before a crowd of 6,748 — since a postseason run to the second round this summer.

For example, this was the first NBA game on Sin City's famed Strip since 1981, when the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Lakers, 115-110, at the Aladdin Theatre.

That aside, Eric Bledsoe appeared plenty capable at the starting point guard position should the need arise, which it has with Paul (right thumb) out of commission.

Bledsoe, using his speed and bullish aggression, pushed the tempo and led the Clippers with 25 points, six assists, eight rebounds and five steals. He made 12 of 17 shots and showed patience and command when setting up offensive sets.

Bledsoe's performance also showed that he could be an effective shooting guard, perhaps playing alongside Paul. That option is on the table as long as Billups (right knee) is out, and the timetable for his return appears to be months away at best.

DeAndre Jordan showcased his improved post game — a part of his game that critics said he never possessed in the first place. An off-season of retooling seemed fruitful.

In fact, Jordan, who finished with 14 points on seven-of-10 shooting, scored the Clippers' first basket with a two-handed dunk that was earned with a calculated drop step, followed by the patience to pump-fake a defender out of position.

Jordan had three thunderous dunks in the first quarter alone, each a result of coordinated footwork and post moves absent a season ago.

To round out the starters, Willie Green played in place of Billups and finished with five points. Blake Griffin, in 22 minutes, had six points and seven rebounds and Caron Butler added 10 points.

And among the off-season acquisitions who are tasked to lead what is being called the deepest bench in the league, Jamal Crawford stuck out the most.

The guard known for his ability to score a lot in a short time led the reserves with 19 points. Lamar Odom scored four, Matt Barnes added 15 points and seven rebounds, Ryan Hollins had five rebounds, Ronny Turiaf didn't score and Grant Hill didn't play.

The next step for the Clippers is to board a plane to China on Sunday afternoon.

They'll play preseason games against the Miami Heat on Oct. 11 in Beijing and on Oct. 14 in Shanghai.

Paul isn't expected to play much, if at all, in those two games, and Billups won't even be making the trip.

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

twitter.com/BaxterHolmes

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