Injuries to a pair of big men, though, could determine if the Lakers can avoid a second loss in 10 days to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Chris Kaman’s(notes) sore back may keep him out of a third straight game Friday night for the Clippers, but Pau Gasol(notes) should return to the Lakers’ lineup as the defending champions host their Staples Center co-tenants.
Bryant has been playing with a broken right index finger for more than a month, but his latest injury was thought to be one that would cause him to miss some time. He nearly sat out Wednesday’s game at Dallas with a nagging back injury that played at least some role in his 36.4 percent shooting over the previous five games.
After receiving treatment the morning before the game, Bryant played only 11 scoreless minutes in the first half. He played the entire second half, though, scoring 10 points and breaking a tie with a jumper with 28.9 seconds left that lifted the Lakers (30-9) to a 100-95 win.
“I thought he played possum tonight a little bit,” coach Phil Jackson said. “He sat out the first half so he could play the second and then, you know, once he got going, (there) wasn’t any chance to rest him.”
Gasol missed his sixth straight game with a strained left hamstring, but Andrew Bynum(notes) continued his stellar play since Gasol’s been down. Bynum, averaging 19.0 points in that stretch, had 22 points and 11 boards against the Mavericks.
“Ron and I talked (Wednesday) morning, how we’ve got to go, no letting the game come to us,” Odom said. “We were more aggressive tonight, especially on defense.”
Odom and Bynum combined for 30 boards Jan. 6 when the Lakers last faced their city rivals, and Bryant had 33 points but went 10 of 30 from the field as the Clippers (17-20) ended a nine-game losing streak in the series. As an injured Gasol sat out, Kaman had 21 points and 14 boards while Baron Davis(notes) had 25 points and 10 assists in a 102-91 victory.
“I love it when they say, ‘Don’t worry, they’re playing the Clippers tonight,” coach Mike Dunleavy said. “That’s the best thing we can tell our guys, that no one respects you. You got to go out there and get it.”
That contest was part of a 13-game stretch in which Kaman scored at least 20 points all but once, but he’s missed the team’s last two games - both losses - with a sore lower back. The 7-footer is questionable to play Friday.
The Clippers blew a 17-point lead in a 104-102 loss at Memphis on Tuesday and fell 108-94 at New Orleans on Wednesday, hours after learning No. 1 overall pick Blake Griffin(notes) was lost for the season with a broken kneecap.
The Clippers went 1 of 14 from 3-point range and shot 40.7 percent from the field, falling to 6-17 when they don’t shoot at least 48.0 percent overall.
“We just didn’t have a good game,” Dunleavy said. “We couldn’t make outside shots. … Making shots energizes players and we didn’t get enough energy tonight.”
Bryant has been held to an average of 21.7 points on 38.5 percent shooting in his last nine games against the Clippers.