LOS ANGELES -- Eric Bledsoe's coach, Vinny Del Negro, displayed a lot of confidence in the young point guard Saturday afternoon.
He left Bledsoe on the court in the crucial final minutes of Game 3 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies. And Bledsoe repaid him some with his electric play, producing an and-one, two assists and other sparkplug-style moves he's made his signature this season.
Then the 22-year-old stepped to the free-throw line twice in the final minute and missed three of his four attempts, nearly giving Memphis the win as the Grizzlies put together a furious final-seconds comeback on the strength of two Rudy Gay 3-pointers.
After the game, which the Clippers won, 87-86, Del Negro defended Bledsoe's late play by pointing out the positives -- like his speed defending Mike Conley -- and emphasizing them over the negatives, like his free-throw misses off the inbounds passes.
Bledsoe similarly said he wasn't too worried about the errors.
"Today they just didn't fall," he said after Saturday's game. "I can't hang my head over it. My teammates picked me up."
He did point out that he didn't have much time to rebound mentally. Typically, teams call full timeouts in big situations like those late in the game, but Reggie Evans pulled down the rebound after Bledsoe's first miss and then, after a 20-second timeout in between, the Grizzlies went right down to the opposite end after his second and third misses.
"Normally they call a timeout and set up and all that, but I didn't really have time to do that," Bledsoe said. "I had to regroup fast and not think about it, because Rudy had hit two big threes just before that."
The Grizzlies didn't have a timeout left in the final seconds, so they had a set play ready after Bledsoe's second trip to the line. Luckily for the Clippers, all it produced was a Gay 3-point attempt, which didn't go in.