This was precisely why J.J. Redick wanted to come back when he did.
So what if the Clippers shooting guard unfurled a clunker against the Dallas Mavericks in a game that will be forgotten by next week? Better than doing it in a playoff game, when an off performance could lead to an early off-season for a team with championship aspirations.
That was the lesson Redick learned three years ago, when he sat out the final 17 games of the regular season for the Orlando Magic because of an abdominal injury and then came back for the first round of the playoffs.
Bad decision. He averaged 6.7 points per game and made only one of 15 three-pointers as the Magic lost to the Atlanta Hawks in six games.
Redick looked similarly out of sorts Thursday night against the Mavericks after sitting out the previous 25 games because of a bulging disk in his back. He scored 12 points but made only three of 10 shots, including two of six three-pointers, in 23 minutes.
"I was in warmups and I was like, what the … am I doing?" Redick said after the game.
He was particularly lost on defense, repeatedly beaten on back cuts that led to easy baskets for the Mavericks during their 113-107 victory at Staples Center.
"Defensively, my brain wasn't reacting well," Redick said. "I did some boneheaded things of just not being in the right spot or not being in the right spot soon enough. Over the course of a game, those three or four plays add up. Those were the plays that kind of annoyed me."
Redick also may have made his final jumper more difficult than it needed to be, stepping behind the three-point line to hoist a potential go-ahead shot that missed with 54 seconds left.
"He got a little greedy," said Clippers Coach Doc Rivers. "I mean, he was open for the two and then he steps back for the three. That actually gave that [defender] a chance to challenge the shot."
Nevertheless, Redick, 29, said he was pleased to be back from what he called "probably the most frustrating injury that I've had" because it was a nerve-related issue that could have required surgery.
"I'm just very humbled and grateful that I got to play in [another] NBA game this season," he said. "There were definitely some moments and some days where it didn't look that way."
Redick will have five more games to find his rhythm before the playoffs.
The Clippers may actually get in a few practices in the coming week thanks to reaching a favorable portion of their schedule that calls for two days off between their next four games. That would be a rarity for a team that forward Blake Griffin said may have practiced less than it did during the lockout-compacted season of 2011-12.
"It's crazy," Griffin said of the extra days off. "I mean, we haven't had that at all really this season, so that's big for us and we have to be smart about it."
Griffin said his back was holding up "OK" two games after his return from back spasms. And as for the right ankle he twisted late in the game Thursday, causing him to fall to the court and then leave the game? "The ankle's fine," he said. "I was just clumsy." … The Clippers did not practice Friday. … The Clippers announced that fans can purchase tickets for home games for the first two rounds of the playoffs starting at 10 a.m. Saturday by visiting clippers.com or calling 800-4NBA-TIX.
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