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Devin Ebanks gets his shot, and Kevin Durant misses many

Seldom-used Laker finds himself in a big game, and responds by holding Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant to five-of-19 shooting in the fourth quarter and two overtimes.

April 23, 2012|By Mark Medina

While at the scorer's table Sunday, Devin Ebanks heard from Lakers Coach Mike Brown just how much his responsibility had increased.

"You got Kevin Durant," Brown whispered in his ear.

Those words uttered before the fourth quarter turned prophetic in the Lakers' 114-106 double-overtime victory. Although Durant finished the game with 35 points, Ebanks played a large part in holding him to five in the quarter, none in the first overtime, and only 11-of-34 shooting for the day.

"I'm not intimidated by anybody," Ebanks said. "I guard the best player in the world in practice. It's no different in guarding one of the other best players in the world. "

Ebanks was, of course, referring to Kobe Bryant, whose seven-game absence because of a sore left shin earlier this month suddenly elevated the seldom-used forward into the Lakers' starting shooting guard. Against Oklahoma City, Ebanks came off the bench after Metta World Peace was ejected for delivering a vicious elbow to Oklahoma City's James Harden and because reserve forward Matt Barnes had a moderately sprained right ankle.

Ebanks believes his work in the gym helped him overcome his lack of playing time and prepared him for an effort Brown described as "huge."

Ebanks made two steals in the final minute of the second overtime to help secure the win. Though he shot only one-of-four from the field, Ebanks scored eight points by attacking the basket and going six-of-10 from the free-throw line. And more importantly, Ebanks held Durant to five-of-19 shooting when he played the entire fourth quarter and subsequent overtimes.

"He wasn't afraid of the moment," Bryant said of Ebanks. "He was looking forward to it and he accepted the challenge. He stepped up and played his heart out."

It's possible the Lakers will still lean on Ebanks' services. World Peace will probably draw a suspension for his elbow, which gave Harden a concussion. The Lakers are reevaluating Barnes' ankle. And with how prepared Ebanks looked in handling his unexpected promotion, Brown said, "We're going to keep trying to get him on the floor. "

"I'll be ready," Ebanks said. "I look forward to any opportunity I can get on the floor."

That opportunity came earlier in the season where he started the first four games. But Brown soon replaced him with Barnes after Ebanks struggled trying to contain New York's Carmelo Anthony. World Peace eventually took the starting small forward spot, while Ebanks usually played only in garbage minutes and even appeared in three games last month in the Development League. But against Oklahoma City, Ebanks played with a group featuring Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Blake and Jordan Hill that chipped away an 18-point deficit.

Ebanks tried using his 6-9 size in hopes of accomplishing two things: limit Durant's looks and make any shots more difficult. Ebanks managed the former by holding Durant to two field goal attempts in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter. He accomplished the latter by blocking Durant's 14-foot jumper with 6:07 remaining and strongly contesting Durant's missed three-pointer at the end of the fourth quarter that forced overtime.

Ebanks didn't sound surprised he could fill that job description. He sounded surprised he was asked.

"I would've told you you were crazy," Ebanks said. "I wouldn't believe it either. But that's part of the NBA. People go down and people have to step up. We'll take it from there."

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