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For Lakers' Sasha Vujacic, it's a shot, not a lark

Reserve guard had played only a minute in the entire playoffs before Game 5, but he kept himself ready with extra shooting. That work paid off as he helped the Lakers defeat Phoenix.

May 28, 2010|By Broderick Turner

Late Wednesday night, long after the Lakers had completed their practice in preparation for Game 5 of the Western Conference finals against the Phoenix Suns, Sasha Vujacic went back to the team's training facility.

Vujacic spent about 1 ½ hours shooting, doing all he could to be ready in case Lakers Coach Phil Jackson called upon him.

And when that time came Thursday night, Vujacic was ready, responding with five points and getting into a little altercation while playing defense.

Vujacic played his role in helping the Lakers defeat the Suns, 103-101, at Staples Center to open a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series that resumes with Game 6 Saturday night in Phoenix.

"I've been injured, I've been out," Vujacic said. "I didn't play in a while, so you got to do something in order to help yourself to overcome and just be prepared."

Vujacic had played exactly one minute, 23 seconds in this series, all in the Game 1 blowout.

Otherwise, he sat the bench the entire time, in Games 2, 3 and 4.

That's why it was so important for him to get in some extra shooting.

Thursday, he was two for four from the field, one for three from three-point range. He played 11:36.

"I prepare myself for every game," Vujacic said. "I came to win a championship. If I got to play, if I got to do something out there, I'm going to do it."

Vujacic suffered a severely sprained left ankle in the final regular season game against the Clippers April 14 and missed the first two playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz, a total of 10 games.

He was out almost a month recovering from the injury.

"I'm never going to get discouraged. I keep the confidence," Vujacic said. "I worked on the ankle when I got injured to come back as soon as possible."

With 9:43 left in the game, Vujacic exchanged shoves with Phoenix's Goran Dragic.

They had to be separated; both were given technical fouls.

Vujacic and Dragic are from Slovenia.

"I don't think I was fighting my countryman," Vujacic said. "I think I was playing good defense. You got to explore the weaknesses of your opponent…. He's still young and he's learning and I don't think pressure helps him.

"He's much younger than I am and I never heard of him when I was back home."

Both Vujacic and Dragic had their moments after the incident.

Vujacic made a three-pointer that gave the Lakers a nine-point lead.

Dragic followed that up with a three-pointer to cut the Suns' deficit to six points.

Both Vujacic and Dragic left the game at the same time, with 5:22 left.

"I just wanted to help my team win," Vujacic said. "We did, and that's all that matters."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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