Larry Nance Jr.'s out indefinitely; is it Kyle Kuzma time in L.A.?

Larry Nance Jr. is going to be spending some time on the shelf. (Getty)

The Los Angeles Lakers lost more than a game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night. Their trip to the Pacific Northwest also cost them their starting power forward.

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With just under four minutes left in the third quarter of Thursday’s matchup, Larry Nance Jr. leapt to try to block a shot attempt by the Blazers’ Caleb Swanigan. The rookie pulled the ball down on a pump-fake, though, and Nance came down hard on top of him, fouling Swanigan on the play. Immediately after he landed, Nance looked down and reached for his left hand, then raised his right hand toward the Laker bench to call for a sub.

He promptly checked out of the game and headed back to the locker room, and wouldn’t return, finishing with seven points, five rebounds, one assist and one block in 19 1/2 minutes of work. In his absence, Lakers coach Luke Walton leaned on rookie Kyle Kuzma, who scored 11 of his 22 points after Nance’s exit to help the underdog Lakers try to hold off the hosts. It wasn’t enough, though, as Damian Lillard took over down the stretch before nailing a deep game-winning 3-pointer in the final second to knock off the Lakers, 113-110.

After the game, Nance’s injury was evident …


… and the Lakers later announced that X-rays confirmed the third-year forward had fractured the second metacarpal in his left hand — the bone that runs from the wrist up the knuckle on your index finger — and will be out indefinitely.

Nance was averaging 11.1 points and 7.9 rebounds in 23.7 minutes per game through the first seven games of the season, shooting 60 percent from the floor, posting three double-doubles, and aiding Luke Walton’s efforts to build a respectable defense. The Lakers are averaging three fewer points per 100 possessions with Nance on the floor this year than when he sits, according to NBA.com’s stat tool.

The Lakers don’t know yet how long they’ll be without the 24-year-old, who had previously suffered a fractured right hand back in 2016. He beat out former lottery pick Julius Randle and exciting rookie Kuzma in training camp to earn the starting job. According to Jeff Stotts of the injury-focused site In Street Clothes, recovery times for the last four players in his database to suffer second-metacarpal fractures have ranged from four games to 14 games.



“Obviously, I feel terrible for him. He’s been playing so solid for us,” coach Luke Walton said after the game, according to Anne M. Peterson of the Associated Press. “It’s tough but that’s what team sports are about, and someone else has to step up.”

The $64,000 question, of course, is who that’ll be.

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Randle, the No. 7 pick in the 2014 draft, is the likely candidate. He made 133 starts over the past two seasons, and has gotten off to a strong start this year, averaging 11 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists and one block in 19.1 minutes per game off the bench. Randle’s rampaging to the rim, shooting a blistering 63.6 percent from the floor and generating a career-high 6.1 free-throw attempts per 36 minutes of floor time as he provides a burst of energy that has fueled L.A.’s reserve corps.

Walton could also opt to go with Kuzma, the 27th overall pick back in June. The Utah product burst on the scene during the Lakers’ Summer League and preseason slates, impressing at every turn with his combination of size, quickness, scoring touch and feel for the game. He’s kept earning praise and fans in real games, too, averaging 15 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists on 54.3 percent shooting in 26.8 minutes per game to date.

The rookie’s not the steady, savvy defensive presence that Nance is. Then again, neither is Randle, and Walton might prefer to keep him running with the second unit in the interest of preventing one injury from disrupting every aspect of his rotation — or, in the same vein, even choose to go with a lesser-used veteran option like Luol Deng or Corey Brewer to keep the younger guys’ roles, minutes and responsibilities steady.

“I have always been a believer that it’s not just the next best player,” Walton said after the game, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com. “How does it affect second units? How does that affect the starting unit, and what we are trying to do? There are a lot of variables to decide between, so we will figure that out in the next day.”

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!