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LAKERS FYI

Injury to guard Steve Blake could hurt Lakers' low-scoring bench

Heading into Saturday's game, the Lakers bench averaged an NBA-worst 21.3 points. Now Steve Blake, the team's leading scorer off the bench, is injured.

January 14, 2012|By Ben Bolch
  • Photo: Lakers guard Steve Blake is treated by trainer Gary Vitti after injuring his rib cage during a game Wednesday at Utah.
Photo: Lakers guard Steve Blake is treated by trainer Gary Vitti after injuring… (George Frey / EPA )

For a team that's played only 14 games, the Lakers don't have much in reserve.

Their bench entered Saturday night's game against the Clippers averaging an NBA-worst 21.3 points per game. Things bottomed out Friday against Cleveland when the Lakers reserves combined for only four points.

And it could get worse.

Steve Blake, the Lakers' primary fourth-quarter point guard and leading scorer off the bench, will be sidelined up to a month after fracturing the cartilage that connects the rib to the sternum earlier this week.

That leaves the Lakers to rely on the erratic Metta World Peace and other players who haven't provided much of a boost to the starters.

Coach Mike Brown had projected World Peace as being a low-post force capable of averaging double figures in scoring upon his move to the bench this season; the small forward was averaging a career-low 5.9 points per game before Saturday.

The Lakers also have received only pockets of production from Jason Kapono, Luke Walton and Devin Ebanks, and injuries and illness have sidelined Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy for stretches.

McRoberts said the bench's lack of production could be attributed in part to having a starting unit that includes the NBA's leading scorer in Kobe Bryant as well as the reserves trying to learn their roles under a new coach early in the season.

"We'll pick it up, but we're still trying to find our rhythm a little bit," said McRoberts, who returned against Cleveland on Friday after sitting out six games because of a sore toe.

"A lot of times we're playing with guys who can score. I mean, if you look out there, it's rarely five bench guys. We either have [starters] Andrew [Bynum] or Pau [Gasol] or Kobe [Bryant] out there with us, so those are our scoring options."

Failure to communicate

McRoberts played less than four minutes against the Cavaliers because trainers neglected to inform Brown that the forward was ready to re-enter the game after having a bothersome pad in his shoe removed.

Brown said he thought McRoberts had asked to come out of the game in the first quarter because his toe was hurting. No one told the coach the issue was with McRoberts' shoe.

"I don't know what happened," McRoberts said. "I was good to go."

The waiting game

Blake said he was surprised to learn his injury would sideline him for as long as a month after initially being told he could return in about a week. He must rest for an extended period to ensure that the area completely heals.

"The pain wouldn't stop me from playing; I don't mind the pain," Blake said. "It's that it would continually hurt me even more to where I wouldn't be able to play at all."

Back in action

World Peace returned against the Clippers after being sidelined Friday because of Achilles' tendon and back soreness, checking into the game with 4 minutes 12 seconds left in the first quarter.

He missed his only shot and went scoreless in eight first-half minutes.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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