Sports

Clippers' Darren Collison looking even better as a starter

SALT LAKE CITY — Darren Collison is listed as 6 feet tall and 175 pounds, but the Clippers point guard appears to be shorter and slighter.

But Collison plays bigger than his measurements.

Collison has been forced to start at shooting guard because 6-5 Jamal Crawford is out with a strained left calf and 6-4 J.J. Redick is out with a bulging disk in his back.

"I think playing against bigger guards this year has been real helpful for me, in terms of improving my defense and getting me better any way that I can," Collison said. "It's been fun. I like taking on the challenge of guarding the bigger guards."

Collison spent some time defending Utah's 6-8 Gordon Hayward Friday night when the Clippers played at the Jazz and he guarded Golden State's 6-7 Klay Thompson and 6-6 Andre Iguodala Wednesday.

"With bigger guards, you've got to worry about them posting you," Collison said. "You kind of got to work on your post 'D' [defense] early, some things that point guards are not accustomed to doing."

Against the Jazz on Friday, Collison got his 26th start in 67 games played this season.

He started 18 games at point guard when Chris Paul was out because of a separated right shoulder.

In his first 25 starts, Collison was averaging 14.2 points, 5.6 assists and 1.5 steals and shooting 48.6% from the field, 42.3% from three-point range.

Overall, Collison is averaging 10.7 points, 3.5 assists and 1.1 steals.

"I think you play with the same energy," Collison said. "Right now, it's go time. Playoffs are right around the corner. You got to give it all right now."

Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said he hasn't given it "a lot of thought" on whether to continue starting Collison when Crawford returns.

"I think then we would go with the best matchup that night," Rivers said.

Clippers deep at small forward

The Clippers have four small forwards in Matt Barnes, Danny Granger, Jared Dudley and rookie Reggie Bullock, meaning someone is not going to play.

Barnes is the starter and Granger has become the first small forward off the bench.

"I'm not going to get them all on the floor, so I'm not going to try," Rivers said. "The guys that are playing well will play."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

Twitter: @BA_Turner

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