Baron Davis limited in loss to Bulls

LOS ANGELES -- Derrick Rose led the Chicago Bulls to a 106-88 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday at Staples Center with 32 points and 11 assists.

Clippers forward Blake Griffin said that was evidence that his team missed a full-strength Baron Davis.

Davis went down with a back injury on a rebound attempt midway through the third quarter and exited the game. He returned in the fourth but appeared limited by his back, finishing with 10 points and three assists in 29 minutes. The Clippers' offense went from 49 points in the first half to 39 in the second with Davis limited.

"As you can see with the Bulls, you see how important the point guard spot is, somebody that can really distribute the ball," said Griffin, who had 32 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists. "Whenever you take that away, it's like taking away your starting quarterback.

"Things just don't go the same way, no matter how good the second guy is."

The second guy for the Clippers is Eric Bledsoe, a rookie selected in the first round last June out of Kentucky. He started 22 games earlier this season when Davis was sidelined with a knee injury, but he's averaged fewer than 20 minutes a game since Davis took over the starting role in mid-December.

Bledsoe played off the ball in his one season at Kentucky alongside John Wall. By his and others' admittance, he has significant steps to take before he's ready to take the reins of an NBA team at the point position.

There's clearly a difference between the two players. Davis brings the steadying veteran presence, Bledsoe the youthful exuberance.

"You can see it," said forward Ryan Gomes, who had 16 points and six rebounds as the second option in Davis' absence. "A veteran like Baron brings that manipulation to the game, that post-up aspect of the game. He reads the defense. Bledsoe is trying to learn and do those things, obviously, but I don't think he's played in enough games or been in enough situations to really do it.

"And that's not his game, either. He's more of a speed guard, an up-tempo guard, than Baron."

Davis, who said his back was still in pain after the game, denied that the Clippers missed his services late in the game. He attributed the loss, instead, to what he said was a lack of fight from the squad late in the game.

"I just think that they beat us tonight," Davis said. "I wanted to be out there but I just didn't feel good about it. We were scoring the ball when we could, but our offense got bogged down and we let our offense affect the way we defended."

Davis' win-loss splits this season tell a large part of the story. In games the Clippers win, he averages 13 points, 8.6 assists and 3.2 rebounds and shoots 44 percent from the field. In games they lose, he averages 10.8 points, 5.1 assists and 2.1 rebounds and shoots 39 percent from the field.

"Baron's a big part of what we do," said center DeAndre Jordan, who played 30 minutes but finished scoreless. "Obviously when he's not on the court it's gonna take away from some of our three-point shooting, assists and leadership."

Davis had particularly stepped his play up in the month of January, as the Clippers went 9-5. In that 14-game span, Davis had only one game with less than 12 points and one game with fewer than four assists. He averaged 15.6 points and seven assists for the month.

That, after a miserable start to the season for both player and team. Davis had clearly been on the upswing alongside the Clippers.

"He's played a huge role [in our resurgence]," Griffin said Wednesday. "You saw when he was out.

"We didn't win very many games."

The Clippers (19-29) now leave town Wednesday for a three-week, 11-game road trip that coincides with the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Davis will make the trip. His status is not yet known for Friday's game against the Atlanta Hawks, but his teammates expect him to play -- and play well.

"He kinda gets everybody fired up, and we need that," Jordan said. "He's definitely gonna bring that with him on the road."