Through all the tribulations of an increasingly uncertain season, the Lakers had one thing going for them — their health.
That ended Sunday when Andrew Bynum sustained a moderate sprain in his left ankle and had to leave the Lakers’ 120-112 victory over the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center.
Bynum was injured after trying to block the shot of Warriors power forward David Lee. He left the game with 1:49 remaining in the first quarter, did not return and was to be reevaluated Monday.
Bynum was limping as he left the arena but was not using crutches and declined the use of a golf cart. He didn’t wait to talk to reporters, but he told the team website that he felt fine and expected to play Tuesday against New Jersey.
“I don’t think it’s going to be long-term,” Lakers Coach Mike Brown said. “Obviously, I want to wait and see before I start thinking about hypotheticals.”
Brown added that he thought Bynum was “able to walk out fine.”
“I think he was feeling OK and he said it’s no big deal,” Pau Gasol said. “I think he’ll be fine.”
It appeared Bynum came down on Josh McRoberts’ ankle, though McRoberts said he didn’t feel Bynum step on him.
The Lakers, who got 40 points from Kobe Bryant on Sunday, hope to have Bynum on Tuesday, but the more important game will be Wednesday against the Clippers. The Lakers lead them by 11/2 games, the head-to-head tiebreaker is at stake and so is the season series, which the Clippers haven’t won since 1992-93.
Bynum had played 49 consecutive games since a four-game suspension to start the season.
Troy Murphy started at center when the Lakers took the court for the second half. He had eight points and 11 rebounds in 27 minutes.
Bynum’s absence was the latest event in an unpredictable, if not disruptive, week for him.
He was benched by Brown last week against Golden State for taking an ill-advised three-point attempt and said afterward he would keep taking them. (He hasn’t yet.)
After Saturday’s three-point victory over undermanned New Orleans, Bynum said he didn’t take part in team huddles during timeouts because he was resting and “getting my Zen on.”
The Lakers didn’t punish him for those comments but fined him an undisclosed sum for his actions relating to last week’s game against the Warriors.
The Lakers (33-20) have been fortunate health-wise. Bryant and Gasol have played all 53 games. Of the Lakers’ starters and rotation players, only Steve Blake missed major time, sitting out 13 games because of a rib injury.
As for Sunday’s game, Bryant was markedly better than his three-for-21 shooting effort Saturday against New Orleans. His 40 points came on 16-for-28 shooting against the Warriors, he made all three of his three-point attempts and added five assists.
Gasol had 26 points and 11 rebounds. Ramon Sessions had 23 points and nine assists.
The Lakers were fortunate to get another short-handed team. Warriors guard Stephen Curry did not play because of ankle problems and recently acquired center Andrew Bogut remained sidelined by a broken left ankle.
Last month, the Lakers played Miami without Chris Bosh, Minnesota without Kevin Love, Minnesota again without Ricky Rubio, Memphis without Rudy Gay, New Orleans without a slew of players, Utah without Al Jefferson, Houston without starting guards Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin, Dallas without Shawn Marion, Golden State without Curry, and New Orleans again without seemingly half its roster.
The Lakers led the Warriors (20-31) by 15 points near the end of the third quarter but lost almost all of another large cushion.
The Warriors closed to within 97-96 on Klay Thompson’s driving layup with 7:02 to play but never passed the Lakers, who received 11 points from Bryant and 10 from Gasol in the final quarter.