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Ben Bolch / On the NBA

Clippers have more in reserve

Bench play, a strength all season, helps make difference against Lakers.

January 05, 2013|Ben Bolch

Everywhere the Lakers' reserves looked, they seemed to be outnumbered by their Clippers counterparts.

There was Ronny Turiaf taking a bounce pass from Chris Paul and soaring for a two-handed dunk.

There was Eric Bledsoe driving into the lane for a scoop layup.

There was Matt Barnes spotting up for a three-pointer against his former team.

The Clippers' backups played as if they were at full strength Friday night at Staples Center during a 107-102 victory over the Lakers even though they were missing super sub Jamal Crawford.

The leading candidate for the NBA's sixth man of the year sat out with a sore left foot sustained earlier in the week against Denver, but his fellow reserves stomped on the Lakers in his absence.

Lamar Odom had nine points, six rebounds and three blocks and Bledsoe and Barnes added eight points apiece.

"It's about playing the right way," Odom said. "It's about playing good basketball, and for the most part throughout the game we played good basketball."

The Lakers technically played four players off the bench, but Jordan Hill was the only one who made things difficult for the Clippers with 13 points and seven rebounds before spraining his ankle early in the fourth quarter.

Antawn Jamison played three quick minutes in the first quarter and then never played again.

Jodie Meeks oddly took nine shots and missed seven before Lakers point guard Steve Nash took his first. Meeks finished with 14 points but made only three of 13 shots

The Clippers' reserves outscored their Lakers counterparts, 30-27, in points and 1-0 in funky dance moves, Turiaf getting into the act in the first half by alternately pumping each fist and jumping into the air as his team assembled an 18-point lead.

The scoring was only a small part of the story. Odom's extra effort forced a jump ball in the third quarter. Barnes' hovering defense then harassed Darius Morris and the Lakers into a shot-clock violation. Turiaf and Odom converged on Dwight Howard under the Lakers' basket early in the fourth quarter, forcing a turnover.

"I thought all of them played hard," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said. "I thought L.O. was very active. He knows how to play, makes the game easier for everybody. I thought Bled was a little more aggressive tonight and did some good things for us."

The discrepancy in bench play is among the reasons why the Clippers are NBA title contenders and the Lakers are two games below .500 more than two months into the season.

The Clippers' reserves entered the game averaging 41.7 points a game, trailing only San Antonio's bench (41.9) among all NBA teams. And that's before getting back Grant Hill, who is supposed to make his season debut next week after sitting out all season because of a bothersome knee.

The Lakers' backups? They ranked 26th in the league, averaging a paltry 25.8 points.

Making things all the more painful Friday was a Clippers lineup of former Lakers that included reserves Barnes, Turiaf and Odom, plus starter Caron Butler.

Odom used to come off the bench for the Lakers, winning sixth man of the year in 2011. That designation probably will go to Crawford this season, so long as he remembers to change shoes now and then.

Crawford admitted before the game that he might have hurt his foot by wearing the same old flimsy shoes since he showed up to start practicing with the Clippers in September.

Superstition? Still, why mess with a good thing.

Taking Crawford's16.5 points and 2.6 assists out of the equation for the Clippers could have been secondary to the disruption in the comfort level of the players used to playing alongside him.

"I don't think you can make up for what he does," Del Negro said. "He's a threat out there. It's hard to double- and triple-team Blake [Griffin] or Chris when Jamal's out there."

Turns out the Clippers had just enough in reserve.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

twitter.com/latbbolch

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