Loss of Kobe Bryant overshadows Lakers’ 118-116 win over Warriors
The Lakers won a game, keeping their playoff hopes alive, but at an incredibly steep cost.
Kobe Bryant sustained a probable torn left Achilles’ tendon Friday, the Lakers said, scheduling an MRI exam that would likely confirm it this morning.
If ever there was a deflating victory, this was it, the Lakers outlasting the Golden State Warriors, 118-116, at Staples Center to stay ahead of the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Did anyone care?
Bryant left with 3:08 to play, falling to the court after his left foot appeared to buckle while he drove toward the basket. He was actually fouled on the play by Harrison Barnes. He called timeout, was visited by trainer Gary Vitti on the court and stayed in the game only to make two free throws.
The Lakers committed an intentional foul, and Bryant slowly walked off the court, Robert Sacre assisting him to the locker room.
An Achilles’ tendon tear, if confirmed, is an injury that takes several months to heal, immediately putting a substantial part of next season into jeopardy for Bryant. He has one more year on his contract for $30.5 million. He turns 35 in August.
He met with reporters in front of his locker after the game, his eyes reddened while he propped himself up on crutches.
“I made a move that I make a million times and it just popped,” he said.
Bryant scored 34 points and was well on his way to playing all 48 minutes for a second consecutive game.
It was “by far” the most devastating injury he sustained in his 17-year career, he said.
“We worked so hard, put ourselves in position where we control the whole thing,” he said. “I certainly have done a lot of work to prepare myself for this.”
The Lakers have two games left in the regular season but Bryant could be facing a different timetable.
“MRI, surgery and then recovery,” he said.
Bryant averaged almost 46 minutes a game in his last six games before Friday. He had played every second until leaving Friday’s game.
He declined to say whether his increased workload was worth second-guessing.
Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni addressed the topic.
“That kind of went away a couple of weeks ago. He just wouldn’t budge on it,” D'Antoni said. “If you had to do it all over again, maybe I’d second-guess it and look at it, but he’s an incredible competitor and it happened.”
What’s next for the Lakers?
“We’re going to get [Steve] Nash back and we’ve got three guys out there that are pretty good. I mean, we’ve got more than that, but obviously three All-Stars,” D'Antoni said, meaning Nash, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.
Howard had 28 points Friday, and Gasol had a triple-double with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. The Warriors’ Stephen Curry had 47 points but his last-second heave from the backcourt was off just enough for the Lakers to win.
The Lakers’ final two games are at home (San Antonio, Houston) while Utah’s last two are on the road (Minnesota, Memphis).
The Lakers’ season flashed before their eyes earlier in the game when Bryant fell and grabbed his left knee with 10:30 left in the third quarter. Vitti quickly ran out to him and looked him over for an agonizing minute before Bryant got up slowly and walked off the soreness.
Bryant landed off balance after getting sandwiched between Festus Ezeli and Barnes on a drive. Barnes was called for a foul. Bryant made two free throws. The Lakers led, 63-62. The air returned to Staples Center.
Bryant was briefly injured again with 6:00 left in the third quarter, appearing to bang knees with Ezeli, who was called for a foul. Bryant winced and hobbled in pain all the way to the other free-throw line before walking back to make one of two free throws.
The worst injury of them all had yet to present itself.
“It’s really one thing after another this year,” Gasol said. “Definitely not what we envisioned and hoped for.”
Nash sat out another game, hobbled by a strained hamstring. He might come back Sunday against San Antonio. He might not.
One thing’s for sure. Bryant won’t be back soon.
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