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Injuries cause domino effect for Clippers' reserves

The bench hasn't been as effective since some backups had to move into starting roles. Eric Bledsoe, in particular, seems out of his rhythm lately.

February 23, 2013
  • After averaging 22.3 points in a three-game stretch against Orlando, Washington and Boston, Clippers backup center Eric Bledsoe has averaged only 7.2 points in the six games before Saturday night against the Jazz.
After averaging 22.3 points in a three-game stretch against Orlando, Washington… (Harry How / Getty Images )

There was a time when the Clippers' second unit overwhelmed teams with its play.

But then injuries began to hit some of the Clippers starters, forcing some reserves to become starters.

And because of that, it seemed to knock the bench off kilter a little, and now the reserves are trying to get their groove all the way back.

It all started when backup point guard Eric Bledsoe had to start after Chris Paul went down for 12 games with a bruised right kneecap.

With no backup for Bledsoe, Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro was forced to use backup shooting guard Jamal Crawford as the next point guard in line.

"Because of the health, you get out of a rhythm," Del Negro said. "Eric was starting while Chris was out. ... The second unit changes because Jamal had to play some point because Eric was starting.

"We have to try to get back to the rotation of understanding the roles and the minutes and everything. We've got to work through that a little bit."

Del Negro said he hoped his reserves could get it going against the Utah Jazz on Saturday night at Staples Center, a game that ended after this edition went to press.

Still, two of the Clippers' reserves average double figures.

Crawford is second on the team in scoring (16.9 points) and reserve small forward Matt Barnes is fourth (10.5). Bledsoe averages 9.5 points.

In Del Negro's eyes, it shouldn't be that difficult for the second unit to get back to playing basketball at a high level.

"I don't think so," Del Negro said. "We've just got to get back to playing harder, better, faster, stronger, tougher. And we will."

Bledsoe had been the energizer for the Clippers, getting steals on defense and providing easy opportunities with penetration on offense.

But lately, it seems as if Bledsoe hasn't played with that same energy.

After averaging 22.3 points in a three-game stretch against Orlando, Washington and Boston, Bledsoe averaged only 7.2 points in the six games before Saturday night against the Jazz.

"I don't think he's wearing down," Del Negro said. "He's so strong and athletic. The younger players have a tendency mentally sometimes to wear down. Physically, I think he's fine."

Del Negro said the Clippers need Bledsoe to return to his old self again.

"We need him to play well, especially with that second group," Del Negro said. "He gives us another guy that can cause havoc and create some offense from our defense.

"He's got to do a better job to be consistently locked into what we're trying to do out there, and he's got to work through that. Everyone has got to help him, including me."

Del Negro said Bledsoe knows he has to pick up his play. And he said assistant coach Robert Pack has been working a little extra with Bledsoe.

"We've talked about things," Del Negro said. "We need him to get back to being aggressive and making plays for us."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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