Bryant will be a game-time decision for the Pacific Division-leading Lakers (38-12) after aggravating his already-sore foot when teammate Lamar Odom(notes) stepped on it late in the first half in Wednesday’s 99-97 win over Charlotte. The 12-time All-Star originally sprained his ankle in a win at Philadelphia last Friday.
With his jumping and speed clearly hindered, Bryant made just 2 of 12 shots to finish with a season-low five points, well below his average of 27.9 - fourth-best in the NBA.
“It was just stiff - stiff and tight,” said Bryant, who passed Jerry West in Monday’s loss to Memphis as the Lakers’ career scoring leader. “Lamar stepped on my foot as I was changing directions, so … it just made it worse. It just set it back to Square One.”
Odom picked up the scoring slack Wednesday, hitting 8 of 10 shots to finish with 19 points, one off his season high. Odom, Pau Gasol(notes) and Ron Artest(notes) will likely be more involved in the offense if Bryant can’t go.
Bryant has been bothered by injuries throughout the season, most notably a broken finger on his shooting hand, but has still started 234 regular-season games dating back to the 2006-07 season.
Anthony hasn’t been nearly as durable for the Northwest-leading Nuggets (33-16).
Anthony, who is tied with Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant(notes) for the league lead in scoring with an average of 29.7 points, sat out the first five games in January because of a right knee contusion and has missed Denver’s last six games with an injured ankle. Anthony suffered his injury Jan. 23 against New Orleans, and it has taken longer than expected to heal.
The Nuggets lost for just the fourth time without their three-time All-Star forward in Wednesday’s 109-97 home defeat to Phoenix.
Chauncey Billups(notes) is carrying Denver’s offense in Anthony’s absence and found out before Wednesday’s game that he was added to the All-Star squad. Billups, who is also suffering from a sprained left ankle, struggled against the Suns and finished with 11 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
“I couldn’t get the lift I wanted,” Billups said of his ankle. “I was trying to go out and give the team what I had. I can’t really attack.”
One of his worst shooting performances of the season came in the only meeting between Denver and Los Angeles on Nov. 13, but Anthony was able to offset Billups’ struggles to help the Nuggets get the best of Bryant and the Lakers.
With Billups held to six points on 1-of-8 shooting, Anthony went 11 for 20 and finished with 25 points to lead the Nuggets to a 105-79 home win.
Bryant had 19 points on 7 of 17 shooting as Los Angeles lost for just the second time in eight meetings with Denver. The Lakers have had a decisive advantage against the Nuggets in Los Angeles, winning 21 of 23 meetings there since Bryant’s rookie season in 1996-97.
The Lakers are enjoying similar success at Staples Center this season, posting a league-best 24-3 home record.