Steve Blake finishing what Derek Fisher starts
Derek Fisher has started every game at point guard for the Lakers.
The fourth quarters have usually been the domain of Steve Blake.
The backup point guard played all 12 minutes against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night at Staples Center, helping the Lakers emerge with a 108-99 victory.
Fisher never got off the bench in the fourth quarter, continuing a trend in which his understudy has often been on the floor in the final minutes. Blake has averaged eight minutes in the fourth quarter to Fisher’s three minutes, with Blake tallying more minutes in the final quarter than Fisher in four of the Lakers’ seven games.
Blake has played 10 minutes or more in the fourth quarter of three games, including the entire fourth quarters against the Chicago Bulls and the Rockets. Has Blake become the Lakers’ fourth-quarter point guard?
“Both those guys have been good for us and sometimes one has been a little bit better than the other,” Lakers Coach Mike Brown said. “If one guy is hot or I’m feeling pretty good with one guy, I may stay with him.”
Both scenarios seemed to apply Tuesday. Blake made two of four shots in the fourth quarter, including a three-pointer, and delivered a nice bounce pass that set up Troy Murphy for another three-pointer.
Blake said he appreciated Brown’s confidence to put him in crucial situations.
“It’s always nice when the coach trusts you to be out there in important minutes,” Blake said. “Whether I’m out there or Fish is out there, it doesn’t matter to me as long as we’re competing and playing hard.”
Blake finished with 11 points on four-for-eight shooting, making two of three shots from beyond the three-point line. He also had three assists and two rebounds in 26 minutes.
Fisher had six points, seven assists and three rebounds in 21 minutes.
“Blake did a nice job bringing energy to that second unit and playing good defense,” Brown said. “Fish had seven assists and two turnovers and I thought he was solid too on [Houston’s Kyle] Lowry.
“So I could have gone with either, I just opted to stay with Blake because I thought he did a nice job creating that separation, and he was also shooting the ball well for us.”
Blake has played slightly more minutes overall than Fisher, averaging 24 minutes to Fisher’s 23.4. But Blake has a much higher assist-to-turnover ratio than his counterpart, with 19 assists and four turnovers. Fisher has 26 assists and 11 turnovers.
Blake is also shooting better than Fisher, making 23 of 57 shots (40.4%) and 11 of 31 three-pointers (35.5%). Fisher has made 16 of 43 shots (37.2%) and only one of 11 three-pointers (9.1%).
It’s a good start for Blake after an uneven first season with the Lakers in which he struggled to find consistency with his shooting. He credited feeling more relaxed as well as the Lakers shedding the triangle offense that Coach Phil Jackson preferred.
“The comfort level is the offense,” Blake said, “but at the same time it’s just being around the guys for over a year and they trust me and I trust them, and it’s just a comfort level thing.”
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