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Lakers' depleted backcourt gets even thinner on eve of Game 3

The Lakers, who trail the Spurs, 2-0, in the best-of-seven series, will definitely be without Steve Blake and probably won't have Steve Nash and Jodie Meeks. Their starting guards could be Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock.

April 26, 2013|By Ben Bolch
  • Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni will be without veteran guard Steve Blake for Game 3 of their playoff series against the Spurs on Friday night. Guards Steve Nash and Jodie Meeks are also questionable.
Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni will be without veteran guard Steve Blake… (Ronald Martinez / Getty…)

The Lakers will have a most valuable player in their backcourt Friday.

It won't be Kobe Bryant. It may not be Steve Nash.

That could leave Andrew Goudelock, selected as MVP of the NBA's Development League on Thursday after a season's worth of memorable performances against such teams as the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and the Maine Red Claws.

Next up for Goudelock: the San Antonio Spurs, in Game 3 of the Lakers' Western Conference first-round playoff series at Staples Center.

A Lakers season that has included some surprising backcourt combinations — Bryant as a point guard, Nash as a hybrid shooting guard — could yield an even more unlikely union after another wave of injuries to Nash, Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks.

Goudelock, Darius Morris and Chris Duhon may be the Lakers' only available guards as they try to piece together a lineup facing a 2-0 deficit in the best-of-seven series.

"The reason I'm starting is because a lot of guys are getting injured," Morris said, "so that's never a good thing."

Blake will miss the game and is out indefinitely after an ultrasound confirmed that he suffered a moderately strained hamstring Wednesday in the Lakers' Game 2 loss.

Nash was listed as doubtful because of soreness in his hamstring, hip and back.

Meeks was also considered doubtful after severely spraining his left ankle in Game 1 and sitting out Game 2.

Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said Nash was more likely to play than Meeks was. Nash received two epidural injections in his back and a cortisone shot in his hip Thursday in an attempt to alleviate the discomfort. Would it be enough to get Nash through Game 3?

"I have been called a doctor of chemistry by some people in the media," Nash said, "but I couldn't make a prediction."

D'Antoni penciled in Morris as a starter, with Goudelock or Duhon likely to join him if Nash and Meeks are unable to play.

Note to public address announcer Lawrence Tanter: It's pronounced GOWD-lock.

The Lakers can only hope it's not trouble, given that Goudelock has played a combined 12 minutes in two NBA games this season. Morris and Goudelock are second-year players and Duhon is a ninth-year veteran. None are primary options if the Lakers are at anything close to full strength.

"I think they should approach it as they've got nothing to lose," Nash said of the replacements. "They can go out there and let it rip. If they have a tough night, what would you expect from their first NBA start out of nowhere? So they should play free and loose and use their youth and energy and the skills they possess to go out and have fun with it and take a free cut."

The Lakers need someone, anyone, to connect on offense after averaging 85 points in the first two games of the series. It won't be Bryant, who is expected to attend the game but may be confined to the locker room so that he can elevate his recovering Achilles' tendon.

The Lakers' latest injury setbacks mean they will increasingly turn toward Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, as if that seemed possible for a team that had already emphasized playing inside out.

"I'm definitely going to need a big game from my end in every aspect," said Gasol, who is averaging only 14.5 points per game in the series on 40% shooting.

Foul trouble was partially responsible for Howard taking only 12 shots and scoring 16 points in Game 2. Not that Howard felt culpable.

"I got all my fouls on offense just posting up," he said. "I thought the flopping rule was going to be put in this year, but I guess that's for next season."

The Lakers were the ones who collapsed at the end of quarters in Game 2, particularly in the first half. They were outscored, 10-3, to end the first quarter and 10-2 to end the second.

On the plus side for the Lakers, they expect to get a boost from returning home to play in the arena where they have won 17 of their last 19 games and defeated the Spurs, 91-86, on April 14.

"We have total confidence that we can come back and win this series," Howard said. "We believe in each other and we've worked too hard to get to the playoffs. We had to fight to get in and we're not just going to give up because we're down and we have a lot of guys that are injured."

Any more injuries to their backcourt and the Lakers might have to turn to Howard, who played point guard growing up.

Not really, but Howard went along with the joke after practice.

"I'll just dribble the ball to half court," Howard said, "hand it to [Nash] and then get down on the block and go to work."

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