Kobe Bryant was back Tuesday night and then he was gone again before the first half was over, his strained right Achilles’ tendon too sore for him to continue playing.
Brandon Bass was back after missing the previous game with a bruised right eye and lasted into the fourth quarter, when a turned right foot sent him to the locker room next to Bryant.
Though short-handed yet again, the Lakers dug down to pull out a 95-91 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans before an appreciative crowd at Staples Center that cheered until the end.
But as expected, the talk after the game was about Bryant and his injury.
Lakers Coach Byron Scott said he didn’t have an update on Bryant, and that he wasn’t sure if his star would play against Golden State in his final game at Oakland on Thursday night.
His absence left it up to Julius Randle, who has been playing with a sore right foot, and Lou Williams, who overcame poor shooting to help the Lakers break their four-game losing streak.
Randle had seven points, including a drive that gave the Lakers a 92-91 lead and a free throw for the final margin.
Williams, who was four for 14 from the field and one for eight from three-point range, scored on a drive for a 94-91 Lakers lead. He finished with 19 points and eight assists to help the Lakers, in last place in the Western Conference, rally in the final three minutes to beat the West’s next-to-last-place team.
“It was a gutsy win for us,” Scott said.
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant, right, shoots as Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham defends during the first half.(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Julius Randle shoots as Pelicans forward Luke Babbitt defends during the first half.(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) passes the ball as Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham defends during the first half.(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
New Orleans Pelicans guard Norris Cole, right, shoots as Lakers center Roy Hibbert tries to block his shot during a Jan. 12 game at Staples Center.(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Pelicans center Omer Asik, left, and Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson reach for a rebound during the first half.(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
It helped that D’Angelo Russell, who sprained his right ankle three games ago, returned after missing Sunday’s game against Utah.
Russell had 13 points against the Pelicans, whose All-Star forward, Anthony Davis, missed his second consecutive game because a bruised back.
Before the Lakers sent the Pelicans to their fourth consecutive loss, Scott suggested to Bryant that he be “cautious” and not push through his injury just because fans are paying to see him play in his final season.
Bryant, who like Russell sat out Sunday’s game, has been intent on enjoying his final season and he wants the fans to enjoy the ride with him.
But Bryant left with 2 minutes 42 seconds to play in the first half Tuesday, taking seven points on three-for-nine shooting and three rebounds with him to the locker room before the half was over.