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Lakers' Matt Barnes finding his way

New reserve looks for chemistry off the bench. He contributes in 18 minutes against the Suns.

October 30, 2010|By Broderick Turner

Matt Barnes had just put his fingerprints on the game again, this time helping the Lakers out on defense, tipping a lob pass away to prevent a dunk by Phoenix Suns forward Hakim Warrick.

A few seconds later, there was Barnes again delivering another big moment, knocking down a three-point shot that gave the Lakers a 13-point lead and forced the Suns to call a timeout.

When Barnes reached the Lakers' bench, Kobe Bryant greeted him with a high-five, a signal to the 6-7 small forward that he was starting to find his niche with the Lakers.

"In a situation like this, everyone knows how important the bench is," Barnes said after practice Saturday. "Our bench is definitely a talented bench. But we've got to build our chemistry. I think we're headed in the right direction. When you go to the bench, you really don't want to have any drop-offs."

Barnes did his part to make sure that didn't happen.

He was solid on offense, scoring 11 points on four-for-eight shooting, three for four on three-pointers, in 18 minutes.

He did his part elsewhere, getting five rebounds and one steal.

"I think he kind of wants to have a feeling that he can do what he wants to do out there, play at a level he's comfortable," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "I'm interested to see how he plays [Sunday] night against another team he played for."

Barnes has played for eight teams over his eight-year career, including Phoenix and Golden State, Sunday's opponent.

Inside game

For some reason, Jackson mused, his team has this poor habit of getting away from its powerful inside game.

The Lakers are successful when they go inside to Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Bryant.

When Andrew Bynum returns from his right knee injury, he'll give the Lakers another post presence.

Jackson said the stats his coaches kept against the Suns had the Lakers going inside 12 out of 16 times in the first half.

"So we have a real high percentage off our inside game," Jackson said. "Yet we were still taking outside shots. So I kind of had to nail that home and then they went out in the third quarter and took some more [outside shots]. Didn't have much influence."

The Lakers did make 44% (12 of 27) of their three-pointers against the Suns.

After two games, the Lakers are making 43.8% (21 of 48) of their three-pointers, but Jackson still wants his team to pound the ball down low.

Walton update

Luke Walton sat out the first two regular-season games after re-aggravating his strained right hamstring in the final exhibition game.

He felt good during three-on-three workouts Saturday and is hoping to be ready to play Tuesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies.

"I didn't feel anything today," Walton said. "As long as I don't feel anything, we're making progress."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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