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Not exactly thumbs-up for Lakers’ Shannon Brown, Sasha Vujacic

Shannon Brown winced in pain in the second quarter and after the game, his sprained right thumb giving him so much pain.

Sasha Vujacic was happy and sad.

He was happy because he was out of the “doghouse” in a big way, starting in place of the injured Kobe Bryant (swelling in his right knee).

Vujacic was sad because he was unable to perform the way he preferred and because the Lakers lost to the Denver Nuggets, 98-96, Thursday night Pepsi Center.

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Even though they didn’t shoot the basketball well, Brown and Vujacic played a role in helping the Lakers come from 15 points down in the third quarter.

When Brown became entangled with Chauncey Billups in the second quarter, his thumb was caught on Billups’ body.

Brown’s thumb was throbbing. He had reaggravated his thumb injury.

“I was thinking about whether or not I should stay in the game. It was going through my head,” Brown said. “I lost focus for a couple of minutes out there.”

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After the game, Lakers trainer Gary Vitti made a plastic brace for Brown to wear on the team’s flight to Minnesota.

Brown said he will play Friday night against the Timberwolves. He’ll just tape up his thumb like he has since the injury first happened.

Brown said there is a tear in the thumb and bone bruise on the outside.

“All my movement, all that hurt,” Brown said. “I don’t have the same range of motion. Every time I catch the ball, every time I dribble, shoot, it hurts. When I reaggravated it, it got bent all the way it and it popped. The calcium deposit in the thumb popped and it set me back a couple of weeks.”

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Brown may have to have surgery on the thumb when the season is over.

Brown was just three-for-12 from the field for 12 points.

But he did have eight points in the third, six on two three-pointers.

“I guess my shooting percentage isn’t as good as it was, but I can’t worry about that,” Brown said. “I’ve got to go out there and I’ve got to play hard. I hope the people understand what I’m going through. The thumb is the most important finger on the hand and I’m just trying to make it happen.”

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Brown did his best late in the game.

The Lakers were down, 97-96, when JR Smith drove baseline. Brown blocked Smith’s shot and retrieved the basketball.

“I was just trying to make a play on defense,” Brown said.

Brown started the second half over Vujacic because he was one-for-six from the field.

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Vujacic finished three-for-12 from the field for 12 points.

He found out 30 minutes before the start of the game that he would be starting in place of Bryant.

Vujacic had been banished to the bench for three consecutive games because of a run-in he had with Lakers assistant coaches Brian Shaw and Jim Cleamons during the Oklahoma City game about two weeks ago.

Slowly, Vujacic began to get some minutes against Utah and San Antonio.

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He played 25 minutes, 39 seconds against the Nuggets.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” Vujacic said. “It was just great to be out there.”

Vujacic made two three-pointers in the fourth, one that gave the Lakers a five-point lead and another that gave the Lakers a seven-point lead.

But he missed four of the six shots he took in the fourth.

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“I definitely missed some shots, especially in the first half that I can make with my eyes closed,” Vujacic said. “But they were all there. I just need to get a better feel for the game. I think it’s going carry over.”

In the end, Vujacic was asked if he was now out of the doghouse.

“Hopefully,” he said. “I just want to play basketball. I think we have a great team to defend our title and I want to be part of it and I’ll do anything possible to help with that.”

broderick.turner@latimes.com

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