Lakers play up their strengths going into Game 6 against Hornets

From wounded and doubtful to dunking and poised to play heavy minutes.

From softies to bad boys.

From a twitchy city braced for the worst back to the usual show of too cool to care.

Didn't they always say if you don't like what is going on with the Lakers, just wait a day? Or maybe just 15 minutes?

About 15 hours after restoring relative calm with their 16-point playoff victory Tuesday against New Orleans in Game 5, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson had another number in mind for Kobe Bryant and his swollen and sprained left ankle.

The Lakers are up 3-2 in their first-round playoff series against the Hornets, and Game 6 is Thursday at New Orleans.

"This is a game we go all out to win," Jackson said after Wednesday's video session and half-court scrimmage for the reserves at the team's facility in El Segundo. "If this is 40 minutes [playing time for Bryant], we do it."

Yesterday's liability to today's ironman.

Bryant went from looking like a decoy in the first quarter Tuesday against the Hornets, taking only one shot, to a dervish dunker by the end of the game. He was not available for comment Wednesday. But Bryant seemed amused, postgame, by Jackson's comment that he was a liability in the first quarter of Game 5, noting that word was "kind of strong."

Meanwhile, the Lakers' training staff was hard at work trying to minimize the swelling in Bryant's ankle.

"He's sore, obviously," Jackson said Wednesday, "Trying to get the swelling down again. The whole process he started on Sunday [was] to try to eliminate the swelling and get some of the soreness out of that joint."

Bryant played 28 minutes in Game 5, and was needed for just 2:58 in the fourth quarter because of the Lakers' big lead.

"We're certainly not out of the woods on this kind of situation just because he played the day after or two days after he sprained his ankle," Jackson said.

With all the attention focused on Bryant's left ankle in the last few days, Jackson, before Game 5, managed to subtly slip in a reference to Pau Gasol's illness. Gasol is averaging 6.6 rebounds in this series and had rough outings in the first two games but came back with 16 points Tuesday, shooting six for 12 from the field.

Gasol said he has been affected "a little" by an upper respiratory illness.

"I don't know how much," he said. "I just play. Some nights I play better than others. Some nights I feel better. It's something that's been going on. But I never talk about it or bring it up, because it is what it is."

He didn't have to say anything when the issue of the Lakers' toughness came up. Hornets Coach Monty Williams said after Game 5 that the Lakers were more physical and that "a lot of it is just not basketball."

Gasol shrugged, saying more with that gesture than he could have done with a few minutes of chatter. In Game 5, the Lakers outrebounded the Hornets, 42-25, and had an overwhelming edge (22-2) on second-chance points.

Still, Gasol went on to tackle the issue of physicality.

"We try to play hard, obviously," he said. "We try to win the series and whatever it takes. Playoff basketball is more of a physical game. We stepped up and just got to keep it up. I don't think we're going over the line at all."

Said Jackson, tongue in cheek: "It was pretty interesting. We're not known for that. We're known for being soft. Sometimes desperation can get teams activated."

This playoff series seems to be following the path of last year's victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder, in which the Lakers won the final two games after the series was tied 2-2. Gasol was asked whether the players talked about having a killer instinct in these situations.

"We must. If you give a team life, then you open up doors you don't want to open," Gasol said.

Times correspondent Mark Medina contributed to this report.

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