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Bledsoe's career-best 27 points lead shorthanded Clippers

The SportsXchange

ORLANDO -- When everyone gets healthy again, reserve guard Eric Bledsoe will be back on the bench playing limited minutes.

In the meantime, though, he's making the most of this opportunity.

Bledsoe, the third-year point guard from Kentucky, had a career-high 27 points and six rebounds to lead the Los Angeles Clippers to an 86-76 victory over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night.

Bledsoe reached double-figure scoring for a career-high ninth consecutive game, doing it in place of injured All-Star Chris Paul. Also on the sideline recovering from an injury is veteran point guard Chauncey Billups, who is due back soon.

"I've learned from two of the best in the game," Bledsoe said. "But all I want to do now is win. As the starter, it was my chance to lead by example."

While the Clippers (35-16) snapped a three-game losing streak, the Magic (14-35) lost their 11th consecutive game and their 22nd in the last 24.

Bledsoe had 23 points and 10 assists Sunday and 17 points and nine assists Monday. This one felt considerably better because of the victory.

"It was important for us to snap out of the slump," Bledsoe said. "It helps your confidence when you can lead your team to a win. Everybody had to step up tonight, and we did."

Jameer Nelson, who missed the previous two games with a left forearm bruise, had 18 points for the Magic, but he failed to score in the second half when the Clippers took control. Magic center Nikola Vucevic had 15 points and 14 rebounds.

The Clippers also got 13 points and 14 rebounds from center DeAndre Jordan. Reserve Ryan Hollins had 13 points and eight rebounds. Lamar Odom and Matt Barnes each had eight points.

The low-scoring, poorly played game came as no surprise. Both teams were without their three leading scorers.

The Magic played without Arron Afflalo (strained left calf), J.J. Redick (sore right shoulder) and Glen Davis (broken left foot). Jamal Crawford (strained right shoulder), Blake Griffin (strained left hamstring) and Paul (right kneecap) watched from the Clippers' bench.

"We needed a win, no matter how ugly it was," Barnes said. "This is the NBA. Everyone is banged up and shorthanded. You just play through it."

The Clippers, who struggled with 11 turnovers before halftime, dominated the second half, limiting the Magic to just 34 points. The Clippers shot only 40.2 percent from the field, while the Magic managed just 34.5 percent.

"We're asking guys to do more than they've done in the past," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "We've had injuries, and different lineups. It doesn't make it any easier."

The Magic led 42-40 at intermission after Nelson hit a trio of 3-point baskets. But in the second half, Nelson missed all five of his shots, and there was no one else to pick up the offensive slack.

The Magic managed just 13 points in the third quarter, watching their two-point halftime lead become a nine-point deficit. They never led in the last 20 minutes.

Jordan sparked the Clippers early with three dunks in the first quarter as he powered through a porous Magic defense.

Barnes, who got his 10th technical foul of the season in the second quarter, had all of his eight points in the first half.

NOTES: Exactly a year ago, also in Orlando, Billups sustained the torn left Achilles that ended his season and led to his slow recovery from surgery this season. Billups has missed all but three games because of tendinitis in that foot. "Back to the scene of the crime," he said. ... Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro met privately with Barnes after the morning workout and talked about the forward's struggles in the two games since he returned from a one-game NBA suspension. "I need him to be aggressive defensively," Del Negro said before the game. ... Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu went into Wednesday's game having missed his past 12 3-point attempts. He had made only 1 of 24 shots from 3-point range in 11 games this season prior to Wednesday. ... The Magic are on pace to shatter the NBA record for fewest free throws in a season, set in 2006 by the Phoenix Suns (18 per game). The Magic are averaging 15.8, which had contributed to their losing streak. "You learn a lot about people in times of adversity," Vaughn said.
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