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Lakers think Matt Barnes, Devin Ebanks are doing enough

The forwards, who have been filling in while Metta World Peace serves a seven-game suspension, haven't had great shooting performances, but Coach Mike Brown points to the team's 3-1 series lead.

May 07, 2012|By Ben Bolch

The Lakers small forward who lingered the longest to work on his shooting Monday was the only one who can't help his team in the next two games.

The suspended Metta World Peace slowly moved around the perimeter at the Lakers' practice facility, making shot after shot.

Putting the ball into the basket hasn't been as routine for Matt Barnes and Devin Ebanks.

Barnes has made six of 26 (23.1%) shots in the Lakers' first-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets, including only one of 14 (7.1%) three-pointers.

Ebanks has shot a more respectable 45%, largely thanks to a five-for-six performance in Game 1. Since then, he has made four of 14 (28.6%) shots.

Of course, shooting is only a portion of what Barnes and Ebanks have been asked to do while World Peace serves his seven-game suspension for elbowing Oklahoma City's James Harden in the head. And when asked whether the fill-in forwards had provided enough, Lakers Coach Mike Brown mentioned a more pressing set of numbers: 3-1.

That's the Lakers' lead in a best-of-seven series they could close out against the Nuggets on Tuesday night at Staples Center.

"They've done enough for us, whether it's rebounding, defending [Danilo] Gallinari, helping us in transition or whatever; they've done enough to help us get to a point where we're 3-1 right now," Brown said.

Barnes' shooting struggles have come after a sprained right ankle he suffered against Oklahoma City in the Lakers' next-to-last game of the regular season. He sat out the next game and hasn't looked the same since.

The veteran hoisted shots on the Staples Center court long after a one-for-five performance in Game 2, but he didn't exactly break out of his funk in Denver, making a combined four of 15 shots in the next two games.

Barnes left the Lakers' practice facility Monday without speaking to reporters. His playoff averages of 3.5 points and 3.8 rebounds are well off his regular-season averages of 7.8 points and 5.5 rebounds.

Brown said Barnes had his consent to keep shooting. "He's knocked down shots for us before," Brown said. "If he's open, I want him to step in and shoot that ball."

Ebanks' overall numbers actually are on the rise. His playoff averages of 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds per game are improvements on his regular-season averages of 4.0 points and 2.2 rebounds. The second-year player had a breakout Game 1 with 12 points and five rebounds but has been relatively quiet since, scoring eight points over three games.

"I feel like I've done a pretty good job," Ebanks said. "I'm just trying to play my role and play hard every possession."

He's still not a widely known quantity around the NBA; Denver Coach George Karl pronounces his last name like that of famed game-show host Bob Eubanks.

But Ebanks has won over one of the Lakers' most demanding critics in Kobe Bryant.

"Ebanks has really stepped up and proved his worth," Bryant said. "When Metta gets back, I'm sure we'll still utilize him a great deal."

Ebanks will be a restricted free agent in July, and his future with the Lakers appeared in doubt a few months ago when his agent said his client would probably try to play elsewhere next season because of spotty playing time.

He may prove to be a keeper.

"When I'm out there, I'm just thinking about playing hard and winning games," Ebanks said. "I don't really think too much about showcasing my talents for other teams."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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