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Shot-Shy Duckworth Lends a Hurting Hand

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hardly an accurate shooter under normal conditions, Portland Trail Blazer center Kevin Duckworth says the bulky splint he wears to protect his broken right hand seriously affects his shooting touch.

Maybe Duckworth shouldn’t complain. Maybe the padded splint, which immobilizes the two outside fingers on his right hand, actually has improved his shooting. It did not prevent him from making a 10-foot jump shot with 17 seconds left that gave the Trail Blazers a two-point victory over the Phoenix Suns in the opener of the Western Conference finals Monday night.

Preparing for Game 2 tonight at 7 at the Coliseum, Duckworth said the brace is restrictive, and he continually thinks about the gauze, foam and tape wrapped around his right hand and wrist.

“In the first half (Monday), I kept telling (trainer) Mike Shimensky that I’m thinking about the stupid thing on my hand more than just shooting the ball,” Duckworth said. “There have been a lot of shots I normally wouldn’t have passed up. I have to play with it. The doctor said I have to have it for six weeks, and it’s been only three.”

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Shimensky said Duckworth’s injury will be examined today. If it is found to be healing, he will be fitted with a less-binding splint.

“Based on the X-rays, we could revise the splint so that it’s less bulky and so he could have the pad of his hand free,” Shimensky said. “That way, he’d be able to catch the ball.” Fact is, though, Duckworth ordinarily does not shoot well, anyway. In his four NBA seasons, the best he has ever shot is 49.6%. This season, he made 47.8% of his shots, perhaps because of his penchant for outside shooting instead of low-post play of most 7-footers.

In his two games since returning--he suffered the injury May 1--Duckworth made three of 11 shots in Game 7 of the San Antonio series and six of 14 shots in Game 1 against the Suns. One of those baskets, of course, was the game winner.

But the Trail Blazers are 5-0 in the playoffs with Duckworth, 3-3 without him.

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“We have enough confidence in Duck to know he can make the shots even with the brace,” teammate Terry Porter said. “We need him in the lineup. He takes up space inside and gets rebounds so that Buck (Williams), Jerome (Kersey) and Clyde (Drexler) can do other things.”


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