Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe (12) gets fouled by Memphis Grizzlies guard… (Lance Murphey / Associated…)
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — No Chris Paul for the Clippers.
No problem for the Clippers.
What figured to be a big challenge against the Memphis Grizzlies, even before Paul was ruled out of the game because of a bruised right kneecap, turned into a 99-73 laugher Monday night at the FedEx Forum.
The Clippers won this game with a strong defensive effort in which they held Memphis to an opponent season low in points.
They also won because of their quality depth and a collective effort that included Eric Bledsoe's replacing Paul as the starting point guard and scoring 14 points.
The game was never close after the Clippers opened a 19-point lead in the second quarter, an advantage that would grow to as many as 27 in the fourth.
"Missing the best point guard in the game in Chris Paul, we had to play collectively and step it up," said Jamal Crawford, who scored 16 points, tying fellow reserve Matt Barnes for game high. "I thought we did a good job of that tonight."
The Clippers did such a good job that it left Memphis Coach Lionel Hollins singing their praises.
"I haven't seen all the teams, but they do have talent," Hollins said. "They have athleticism. They have a lot of stuff going for them. That's why I said before the game that they're the best team in the West, maybe the best team in the league right now."
The Clippers' 29-9 record is the second-best in the NBA, one game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Grizzlies and Clippers played a rugged seven-game, first-round playoff series last season that L.A. won, and the teams staged a grueling battle in this season's opener, also won by the Clippers on Oct. 31.
Because of the trash-talking and the history between the teams, Monday night's game had the makings of another thriller even with Paul sidelined and Memphis playing without starting forward Rudy Gay, who missed the game to attend his grandmother's funeral.
It didn't turn out that way, in large part because the Clippers' bench, one of the best in the league, outscored Memphis' reserves, 54-26.
At one point in the second quarter, the Clippers had an all-reserve lineup of Barnes, Crawford, Grant Hill (eight points, four assists, four rebounds), Lamar Odom (six points, seven rebounds, three assists) and Ronny Turiaf.
"I think that's the beauty of our team is our depth," Crawford said. "When somebody goes down, somebody can step in. Nobody is Chris Paul. Nobody is Chauncey Billups [out because of tendinitis in his left foot]. But we step in as a team and we pull for each other."
The Clippers held the Grizzlies to 30.3% shooting, the third-worst percentage in franchise history dating to its beginnings in Vancouver, Canada.
"We can play 'D.' We got that," Odom said. "When you put defense first, that's how everybody stays in the game. We're so active. We're so big. We have lots of bodies, length, quickness, know-how."