Kobe Sprains Ankle, Returns, Lakers Hold On For Win

It says a lot about the Lakers goals for the season that a minor ankle injury to Kobe Bryant that he played through is a much bigger story than the Lakers clinching the top seed in the Western Conference.

The Lakers clinched it in another dramatic game where the starters built a big lead then the bench gave it back and the Lakers had to hold on at the end for 103-95 win. The Lakers will be the home team throughout the Western Conference playoffs, but they remain one loss back of Cleveland for the best record in the league.

But that is not the big story.

Kobe Bryant sprained his right ankle late in the first half, but he returned to the game in the second half and looked just like the old Kobe, scoring 12 of his 14 points in the quarter. After the game ended and his ankle cooled down, Kobe was officially listed as day to day. He is staying in New York for the night and the Lakers doctors will re-evaluate the injury on Saturday. The Lakers next game is Sunday in Atlanta.

The injury happened with 50 seconds left in the first half. Kobe attacked the rim from the right wing and Nets point guard Devin Harris tried to cut him off. Their legs tangled and Kobe went to the floor. While he did not roll his right ankle under him, he did seem to jam it.

A time out was called and Kobe went to the locker room for the half. Lakers trainer Gary Vitti took off the tape and retaped the ankle with more support, tape was sticking out above Kobe’s sock.

Kobe came out to start the second half and he was key to the Lakers dominating the quarter. Kobe drained three 3-pointers and scored 12 in the quarter, as the Lakers started to pull away from the Nets. He also ran the floor and played defense showing no ill effects of the injury.

That didn’t mean that the Lakers completely held their lead. Once again every time the bench players entered the game, the Nets went on a run. Lakers coach Phil Jackson adjusted his rotations, trying to keep more starters out there with the bench players and keeping the subs on a shorter leash when things went wrong.

In the end, Kobe got help from the others Lakers. Up three with just more than a minute to go, Kobe missed a 16-foot pull up jumper but Lamar Odom grabbed the rebound and went back up for the putback. Next time down Pau Gasol hit a 12-foot face up jumper over Brook Lopez. The next trip down for the Lakers, Kobe came off the Gasol pick and tried to go baseline, both defenders came out to stop him and a little lob pass and Gasol had another layup. That pretty much iced the game.

Gasol was the Laker the Nets could not stop, he finished with 36 points of 14 of 19 shooting.

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