Lakers’ reserves step up when Kobe Bryant sits down
INDIANAPOLIS — Kobe Bryant put on his big-boy pants.
His teammates did too.
Bryant didn’t play past the first quarter, but the rest of the Lakers carried it from there Friday, beating the Indiana Pacers, 99-93, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Resiliency finally crept into Lakers parlance, alongside determination, as Steve Blake and Antawn Jamison were decisive from the perimeter while Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace did the dirty work down low.
They had no choice when Bryant couldn’t return after missing all four of his shots in 12 minutes.
He couldn’t put any pressure on his severely sprained left ankle, couldn’t post up, couldn’t back anybody down, couldn’t slide defensively.
Other than that, he was fully healthy.
“What I told them was ‘I don’t know how much I have, but whatever I have I’m going to give you.’ That’s all my message was to them,” he said.
The Lakers’ reserves, humiliated two nights earlier in Atlanta by a 46-16 margin, snapped back with Blake’s season-high 18 points and seven assists. Jamison had 17 points, combining with Blake to make nine of 14 three-point attempts.
Howard shook off a slow start to finish with 20 points and 12 rebounds, and World Peace had 19 points.
The Lakers held Indiana to 37.4% shooting, probably the stat of the game, if not Bryant experiencing only the 15th scoreless game of his career. Whatever. He tried.
He sat on the bench in the second half with an electro-stim machine in his hands, its wires disappearing into his left sock.
“It was really stiff. Just continued to swell,” he said. “I couldn’t put any weight on it so I had to call it a night.”
He didn’t know if he would play Sunday against Sacramento, part of a three-game stretch in which the Lakers play less-than-dangerous teams. The Kings, Phoenix and Washington are a combined 67-129, though Sacramento and Phoenix have beaten the Lakers this season.
“I was apt to sitting him [Friday] but it’s hard,” Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He’s had 17 years in the league so he has some credibility about, ‘Kobe, you want to go, you don’t want to go, how do you feel?’ He’ll have the final say if the trainers clear him.
“He could take a day off or two and it might help him, but that’s on him.”
Meanwhile, his teammates went on without him. Very successfully.
One play stood out near the end.
With George Hill practically all over his back, Steve Nash found Howard down low for a double-clutch layup. Howard was fouled by Roy Hibbert and made the free throw for a 90-87 lead with 1:30 left.
“I really didn’t think about it. Just went up there and shot it,” he said of his trip to the line.
Howard making his free throws this week? What’s next?
He was only six for 11 Friday, hardly a cause for celebration, but it came a few days after he set two Lakers records by making 25 of 39 against Orlando.
“I think he’s really turned the corner in that department in terms of believing that he’s going to make it as opposed to going up there thinking, ‘Aw, I might miss it,’ ” Bryant said.
Bryant didn’t miss much from the bench, at one point diagraming for Howard on a whiteboard where the double-teams were coming from.
“Mike has got a million things going on in his head, and Steve and Dwight are all out there in the moment. It’s tough to really see all those things,” Bryant said. “I could see them from the sideline.”
Was Bryant auditioning for D’Antoni’s job?
“I guess,” the Lakers coach said dryly. “I don’t know if he wants that or not.”
The Lakers (35-32) are about to get stronger.
Pau Gasol will return Sunday or more likely Monday, D’Antoni said, after being sidelined since Feb. 5 because of a tear in the bottom of his right foot.
“We just want everybody to get healthy so we finally have a game where all the guys who came here can just play,” Howard said. “Till then, everybody has to step up and play big.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
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