By Mark Lamport-Stokes
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The struggling Los Angeles Lakers suffered yet another morale-sapping injury setback on Thursday with the news that backup guard Steve Blake will miss Friday's Game Three against the visiting San Antonio Spurs.
Blake, who has produced good form since shooting guard Kobe Bryant was ruled out for the rest of the season following Achilles tendon surgery, was diagnosed with a moderate strain of his right hamstring after having an ultrasound test.
"He (Blake) is out indefinitely," the Lakers said in a statement as the team prepare to claw their back from a 2-0 deficit in their best-of-seven first-round playoff series.
With the inspirational Bryant, a five-time NBA champion, sidelined for up to nine months, the Lakers were looking to Blake and veteran point guard Steve Nash to shore up the team's playmaking role against the second-seeded Spurs.
However those hopes were swiftly disappearing with Blake out and Nash also in trouble after being described as "doubtful" for Game Three.
The 39-year-old Nash missed the last eight games of the regular season because of back and hip problems and on Thursday he received two epidural injections in his ailing back.
"He also received a cortisone shot in his right hip," the Lakers said. "His status for tomorrow's game is doubtful."
INJURIES FLARED UP
Nash scored just nine points during the Lakers' 102-91 loss to the Spurs in Wednesday's Game Two in San Antonio after his hip and back injuries flared up in the first half.
"It got worse as the game went on," two-time NBA MVP Nash told reporters. "This has been far and away the worst season for injuries I have ever been a part of personally and collectively."
Blake cut an even more forlorn figure as he spoke to the media in front of his locker after scoring 16 points on six-for-15 shooting on Wednesday.
"No matter what happens, we're going to keep fighting, whether I'm playing or I'm not playing," he said, referring to Friday's Game Three at the Staples Center.
The seventh-seeded Lakers may be 16-time NBA champions but, without Bryant and Blake and possibly Nash at their disposal, they will have their work cut out as they strive to fend off a rejuvenated Spurs team.
San Antonio have limited Los Angeles to an average of just 85 points in the first two games while totally outplaying them from the bench.
"They know that if they win this next third game, it's going to be very difficult for us to come back," said Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. "It's a must-win for us."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)