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Lakers largely improve point guard play

January 14, 2012 | 12:00 pm

On a night the Lakers lost point guard depth, the team expanded it in its play.

They may have lost reserve Steve Blake, his improved sharp shooting and his bench leadership. But they replaced it with an efficient Derek Fisher and a prepared Darius Morris, a unit that combined for 14 assists. The Lakers' 97-92 victory Friday over the Cleveland Cavaliers marks just the first of many games they'll be without Blake. He's expected to remain sidelined for three to four weeks because of fractured cartilage that connects the rib to the sternum. But at least for one game, the Lakers proved they're capable of elevating their point guard play.

For Fisher, that involved dropping 10 assists, collecting three steals and committing zero turnovers. Fisher's assist mark actually somewhat mirrors the six he's averaged this month in eight games, but he appeared much more comfortable running the offense in rhythm. He threw two early entry passes to Andrew Bynum. Fisher made a beautiful left-handed pass inside to Pau Gasol after drawing a double-team on a pick-and-roll. He constantly set up Matt Barnes when he moved off the ball.

"The one guy who stands out in my mind is Derek Fisher," Lakers Coach Mike Brown said.

But so did Morris. His three points on one of three shooting and four assists hardly pops out on the box score, particularly when it's matched up with Kobe Bryant's 42 points. But the moment Morris stepped on the court, all those quiet hours in the gym at Loyola Marymount and those weightlifting sessions at Mira Costa High this summer appeared to pay off.

After feeding Bryant the ball, Morris' cut to the far perimeter prompted Bryant to set him up for a successful trey. Morris then returned the favor by feeding Gasol for an elbow jumper and Barnes in transition on consecutive possessions.

"To lose Steve Blake, he's been playing great this season knocking down shots, getting assists and running that second unit," Morris said. "So we knew our focus needed to be high. It needs to continue to be high. You never want a teammate to be down, but when he does, you have to come together and become strong."

That becomes particularly important for one other reason. Bryant said his wrist has healed significantly, but that the pain increases the most whenever he dribbles.

"I refuse to do that. The young fella will have to step in and do that job, faciliate and all sorts of things. Ball handling takes too much energy. The wrist is not quite ready to handle the ball that much."

Fisher and Morris will soon find out within the next month whether they can handle it too. But they at least proved capable for one night. 


Kobe Bryant maintains wrist is healing

Five things to take from Lakers' 97-92 win over the Cavaliers

Steve Blake expected to sit out three to four weeks

--Mark Medina

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