Bryant expects to take the court for the Lakers as they look for a 12th straight win Saturday night when they face the Utah Jazz for the second time in four days.
The Lakers (18-3) are hopeful Bryant will be functioning at his usual high level throughout this five-game trip—which closes with four matchups against teams currently under .500. The superstar fractured the index finger on his right hand while reaching for a pass late in the first quarter in Friday’s 104-92 home win over Minnesota and was fitted for a splint at halftime.
The break isn’t Bryant’s first avulsion fracture, in which a small piece of bone tears away near a ligament or tendon.
“It’s pretty painful,” said Bryant, who finished with a team-high 20 points. “I just tried to play through it. … You just get used to it, that’s all. It’s just a different technique to shoot the ball with this,” indicating the soft-foam protection on his right index finger.
Los Angeles has taken advantage of a favorable schedule in which it hasn’t played outside California since Nov. 13. The Lakers are 3-1 on the road as they make their first trip to Utah (13-9) since winning Game 4 of a first-round series April 25.
“There’s only one loss here or two I could say that I was disappointed in how we played the game,” coach Phil Jackson said. “We did a good job on our home court and set ourselves up for the road schedule now.”
Pau Gasol(notes) had 17 points and 20 rebounds Friday, and the Lakers improved to 10-0 since he returned from a hamstring injury. Los Angeles used a 30-14 third quarter to pull away after leading by two at halftime.
A similarly dominant period helped Los Angeles win 101-77 over Utah on Wednesday at home. The Lakers outscored the Jazz 28-6 in the fourth quarter to turn a two-point game into a rout.
Utah missed 16 of 18 shots in the final quarter. Bryant scored 27 points and Gasol added 19 and 12 boards.
“They didn’t get the shots they got in the first three quarters,” Gasol said. “We got the momentum and just started putting plays together.”
The Lakers haven’t won 12 straight since a 19-game run Feb. 4-March 13, 2000.
The Jazz bounced back from the loss to the Lakers by rallying for a 120-111 victory over Orlando on Thursday. Utah trailed by 13 after one quarter before Deron Williams(notes) scored 21 of his 32 points in the second half and also finished with 15 assists and eight rebounds.
“We all were disappointed with our loss (Wednesday) in L.A. That fourth quarter we kind of continued in the first quarter,” Williams said. “We just had to get out of that funk.”