The opening minutes of the Clippers’ 107-96 win over the Detroit Pistons on Friday afternoon featured one performance coach Tyronn Lue had been waiting to witness and one lineup he never expected to.
This was a game when Eric Bledsoe reintroduced himself to an offense in which he had become largely invisible.
The starting point guard’s most productive stretch offensively had been a five-game span earlier this month in which he averaged 15.6 points, 12.2 shots and 49% shooting. In four games since then, the starting guard averaged only 3.8 points, 4.5 shots and 33% accuracy. In an overtime loss Tuesday to Dallas, he played only 24 minutes, his fewest in nearly three weeks, and took only two shots.
The drop-off was “totally on me” to fix, Lue said. It worked, though in ways Bledsoe’s coach had not necessarily predicted.
Lue had described finding opportunities to allow Bledsoe to be more aggressive, such as pick-and-roll plays, but Friday’s first quarter was only two possessions old when Bledsoe, standing in the corner, made his first three-pointer in four games.
One possession later, Bledsoe had his first outing in six games with multiple three-pointers. His third three-pointer was the result of yet another catch-and-shoot opportunity, despite Bledsoe making 25% of such shots this season.
In all, Bledsoe scored 11 points in three minutes, and finished the game with 15 points, three rebounds and three assists, to set into motion a mismatch that would continue for the next two hours, even despite the Clippers’ two leading scorers, Paul George (12 points) and Reggie Jackson (21 points) combining to make only 13 of 38 shots and four of 19 three-pointers. The Clippers (11-8) led by as many as 29 points and by at least 20 for all but five minutes of the second half, when a 21-8 Pistons run forced Lue to play his starters deeper into the fourth quarter than he’d liked.