LOS ANGELES (AP) — Eric Bledsoe made a name for himself during the Los Angeles Clippers' playoff run last season. The third-year guard gained valuable confidence that is paying off.
Bledsoe narrowly missed recording a triple-double, finishing with 22 points, 11 assists and nine steals in the Clippers' 97-91 win over the Lakers on Wednesday night that kept their Staples Center co-tenant winless in seven preseason games.
"Just having fun," Bledsoe said, recalling his only triple-double came in high school. "I thought I was going to be a little winded, but I wasn't."
He played more than 43 minutes on a night when the Clippers' All-Star guard Chris Paul sat out. Paul's counterpart on the Lakers, Kobe Bryant, missed his second preseason game with a strained and bruised right foot. Paul rested after being hit accidentally by a teammate in practice.
Dwight Howard was rested while recovering from general soreness after his Lakers debut on Sunday.
The Lakers won't have Bryant for their final exhibition against Sacramento on Thursday night in San Diego, while Paul will play the Clippers' finale in Denver that night.
"We had a lot of guys out and so did they so I didn't put a lot of stock in the outcome of this game," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said.
Bledsoe came into his own in the Clippers' 4-0 second-round playoff loss against the Spurs, averaging 11. 5 points while shooting 70 percent from the floor and 50 percent from 3-point range.
"The playoffs last year was huge for him and really gave him the confidence," Blake Griffin said. "He knows his role and he understands what his main job is. He's had experience playing when CP is out."
Matt Barnes added 18 and Griffin had 15 points for the Clippers.
"Anytime these two teams match up, being where the Clippers are now, it's going to be intense," said Barnes, a former Laker.
Pau Gasol led six Lakers in double figures with 17 points. Rookie Robert Sacre of Gonzaga, starting in place of Dwight Howard, and Metta World Peace had 13 each. Jordan Hill added 12. Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks, who started in place of Bryant, had 11 each.