Bryant was suspended by the league Friday for two games for elbowing Memphis’ Mike Miller in the throat last Wednesday, and the Lakers were swept in a home-and-home series with the Utah Jazz, including Tuesday’s 90-80 road defeat.
“Without our best offensive player, we’ve got to play better defense,” said Lamar Odom, who had 25 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers (15-16), who dropped under the .500 level for the first time since Dec. 6.
Bryant should help boost his team’s morale and help Los Angeles try to avenge a Nov. 11 defeat at Philadelphia. Bryant went just 7-for-27 from the field for 17 points in the 85-81 defeat while Iverson went 10-for-23 and scored a game-high 34 points to lead the 76ers.
Heading into Friday’s matchup, Iverson and Bryant rank first and second as the NBA’s scoring leaders. Iverson is averaging 33.2 points and Bryant closely follows at 32.7 per game.
Iverson and his 76ers hope to end their season-long seven-game road trip on a positive note. So far, the 76ers are 2-4 on the trip and trying to bounce back from a 105-85 defeat Wednesday at Phoenix.
Iverson continued his career struggles at Phoenix, where he went just 7-for-23 from the field, finished with 16 points and is shooting 30 percent from the field there over his career.
“I have no idea,” said Iverson when asked to explain his scoring woes in Phoenix. “The bad part about it is I love the gym and the atmosphere, so I have no idea why it’s like that.”
Iverson has shot 15-for-48 from the field in his last two games. Forward Chris Webber sat out Wednesday due to a strained lower back and is questionable for this game.