Matt Barnes’ diminished playing time seems to benefit Lakers
The less Matt Barnes plays in the playoffs, the better for the Lakers?
It’s starting to look that way.
The Lakers’ two biggest victories of the postseason heading into Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal series Saturday night at Staples Center came with the struggling small forward playing 10 minutes or less.
Barnes played 10 minutes Friday in Game 3, a three-point Lakers victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
He was on the court less than six minutes for the Lakers’ Game 7 triumph against the Denver Nuggets in the first round.
That’s a significant drop from the 22.9 minutes Barnes averaged during the regular season.
The nine-year veteran hasn’t given Lakers Coach Mike Brown many reasons to give him extended playing time since the end of the regular season.
“There are just some times out there that I thought he had unforced turnovers or stuff like that,” Brown said Saturday before Game 4, “and some of the things defensively and rebounding, he just has to get in a rhythm. He seems like he’s in a little bit of a funk now.”
Brown said the right ankle Barnes sprained in the next-to-last game of the regular season is no longer an issue, but his shooting certainly is.
Before Game 4, Barnes had made 16 of 56 (28.6%) shots and only five of 30 (16.7%) three-pointers, far below the accuracy he displayed during a regular season in which he made 45.2% of his shots and 33.3% of his three-pointers.
He was averaging 3.9 points and 3.2 rebounds in the playoffs, well off his averages of 7.8 points and 5.5 rebounds in the regular season.
Barnes was not available for comment before Saturday’s game.
He had hoisted extra shots after games and shoot-arounds to try to find his rhythm. Nothing seemed to make a difference.
Other aspects of Barnes’ game have suffered as well; the energy he typically provides off the bench also seems to be missing.
His playing time has plummeted as a result.
Of the five games Barnes has played 10 minutes or fewer this season, three have come in the playoffs. Brown acknowledged that Barnes’ decreased playing time may have compounded his struggles.
“Obviously, with him not playing a lot of minutes and me not allowing him to through those spells all the time probably hasn’t helped his confidence,” Brown said, “but I have to play however I best see it’s going to help us win.”
Metta World Peace has been the primary beneficiary of Barnes’ decreased playing time. World Peace had averaged 38.5 minutes in his four playoff games before Saturday after averaging 26.9 minutes during the regular season.
Barnes’ second season with the Lakers had compared favorably with his first before the postseason. His point, rebounding and assist averages were all above his numbers from a year ago.
Barnes, who is making $1.9 million this season, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Brown said he was “absolutely floored” to discover after Game 3 that center Andrew Bynum had made only two of 13 shots in the Lakers’ victory because the coach considered it Bynum’s best playoff performance besides his triple-double in Game 1 of the first-round series against Denver.
Bynum finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks, his scoring largely the result of making 11 of 12 free throws.
“That’s how much of an impact he can have on the game if he is in tune,” Brown said.
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