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Blount Is Feeling Powerless

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The reserve power forward who has been sitting on the bench far more in the playoffs than at the end of the regular season was sitting by the bench Wednesday afternoon inside the Rose Garden, spending his final few minutes before practice virtually alone with his thoughts and the music of the rap group OutKast. Draw your own conclusions.

Corie Blount has vanished from the rotation after averaging 14.6 minutes the final 10 games. That might come as no surprise since Del Harris is the coach, but it has become an issue of some prominence since Del Harris is the coach searching for more rebounds. The Lakers had been hammered by the Portland Trail Blazers the night before on the boards, 52-38. And because of that, along with a reaffirmation that they are the worst free-throw shooting team in the league two seasons in a row, they play a Game 4 tonight after missing the chance to end the best-of-five series. Mario Bennett, second behind only Shaquille O’Neal in rebounds per minute, did not play, giving him 18 seconds in the entire series. Blount, third in the same category, got all of four minutes, putting him at 11 in two appearances. Meanwhile, the Lakers have been beaten on the boards all three outings, which was expected but is still of little consolation to a team that had hoped to be in Los Angeles by now.

So maybe things will change tonight. Bennett, who only three weeks ago had three double-doubles in four games before inexplicably falling out of sight, probably won’t play since Harris doesn’t like the matchups against the bigger Trail Blazers such as Brian Grant and Rasheed Wallace and likes even less the thought of dividing minutes among four power forwards. Blount, though, should get an increased role.

“There’d be a good chance for him,” Harris said.

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Probably.

“We’ll see how everything goes,” the coach continued. “It’s possible.”

It has been a long, strange trip for Blount this season, not to mention the two previous seasons with Harris, at least giving him some preparation over newcomer Bennett for the frustration of inconsistent playing time. The last three times Blount has played at least 20 minutes, he has responded with 15, 10 and nine rebounds, all the better for his playoff cause since all came within the final seven games of the regular season.

But that became a playoff cause for the needy. Blount played seven minutes last Friday, not knowing at the time it would be his extended duty. Sunday, he was the only Laker not to play, though Bennett, Sean Rooks and Jon Barry each went only one minute. Tuesday, in Game 3, as rebounding became a critical issue, he stayed on the bench all second half, unable to help but wonder that he could have been the difference.

“You think that,” he said. “Me and Mario were both talking how much we wanted to be in the game. But it’s not our decision.”

The Lakers missed 22 shots in the second half, got five offensive rebounds, and lost, 99-94, as their lead in the best-of-five series was cut to 2-1. Having checked out late in the afternoon in what was more a sign of planning and convenience than cockiness, they returned to the hotel. Blount dropped his stuff in his room at about 11:15, turned right around, went back downstairs and got his workout for the night after all.

“I just more or less took a long walk and thought about the game and thought that I wanted to do everything possible so we did not have to be stuck in this place again,” he said.

He went alone, about a mile and a half through the streets of downtown this place. He ended up at some lounge, not so alone.

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“Bunch of hillbillies in there,” he said.

He had a beer, then headed back. He was back by about 2 a.m.

“The thing is,” Blount was saying about 12 hours later, “I know that even if I don’t play, we should still handle business. Everybody on this team knows they [the Trail Blazers] can’t beat us. They got lucky last night.

“It’s definitely going to be over Thursday. I’m sure. I know the guys on this team and the attitude I have. There’s no way we’re going to let the guys on that team beat us twice in a row.”

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Spoken like the member of a team, destined, maybe by the end of the night, to feel like an outcast no more.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Pounded on the Boards

The Lakers have been outrebounded by the Portland Trail Blazers in each of their three playoff games: *--*

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PORTLAND LAKERS GAME 1 41 36 GAME 2 34 29 GAME 3 52 38 TOTAL 127 103 GAME AVERAGE 42.3 34.3

*--*


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