Injuries began to take a toll on the Lakers on Wednesday night, leaving them short-handed and unable to overcome their sudden adversity during a 117-107 loss to the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center.
It became a game of attrition for the Lakers when Kobe Bryant, who started the game, was unable to play in the second half because of a sore right shoulder.
The Lakers were reduced even more in the third quarter when second-year guard Jordan Clarkson suffered a strained tendon in his left knee and was unable to return. The team had not decided if Clarkson would get an MRI exam.
That left the Lakers with 11 healthy players, making a season that has already been bad turn even worse, if that’s possible for a 12-50 Lakers team.
“Everybody knows they’ve got to step up when guys go down,” said D’Angelo Russell, who had 24 points and six assists. “We were clicking and then that happened. So it was just adversity that we didn’t handle well.”
Bryant had missed the previous two games with the shoulder, but wanted to play against the Nuggets to give the fans here something because it’s his final game in Denver.
But the pain in his shoulder was too severe, limiting Bryant to 11 first-half minutes in which he scored five points.
“It’s my last time here and it’s important to get out there and play to show appreciation for all these years,” Bryant said, explaining why he played. “Had it not been the case, I wouldn’t have played. It was fun to get out there, though.”
Bryant said after the game that his shoulder was “hurting.”
“It’s really, really achy,” Bryant said. “I’ve got a little bit of clicking in it and things like that. Just try to stay on top of it right now.”
The Lakers play Atlanta on Friday at Staples Center and the defending NBA champions Golden State Warriors at home Sunday.
Bryant is not sure if he’s going to play, but he doesn’t want to rest for an extended period of time because there are only six-plus weeks left in the season, in his 20-year career.
The Lakers have six road games left and it has been important for Bryant to play in those games in his final go-around.
“As much as I can get out there and play, I’ll get out there and play,” Bryant said. “At Staples, I’m going to have to start ramping it up a little bit, getting out there and playing. It’s almost a wrap.
“At the same time, I don’t want to do something to it and have the shoulder pop out again and then I’m on the surgery table again or something like that. I don’t want that to happen. So you just got to be smart. But still in all, I appreciate the time that I have left.”