Lakers 89, Cavaliers 79
LOS ANGELES (AP)—The injuries just keep on coming for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Kobe Bryant joined fellow superstars Shaquille O’Neal and Karl Malone on the sidelines Monday night, spraining his surgically repaired right shoulder in the Lakers’ 89-79 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Bryant was injured late in the first quarter and sat out the second half.
Lakers spokesman John Black called Bryant’s injury a sprained acromio clavicular joint and said the star guard will have an MRI exam Tuesday.
Bryant issued a brief statement after the game through Black, but didn’t mention the injury.
“We don’t know the status—we’ll know more about that tomorrow,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “It’s just an NBA season. We’ve just got to absorb what happens and move forward. If you let that rock you, then you’re not going to develop.”
The Lakers were already short-handed, playing their fifth game without O’Neal (strained right calf) and ninth without Malone (sprained knee ligament).
O’Neal said before the game he was getting better and close to playing again—perhaps Wednesday night against Denver. Malone is eligible to come off the injured list for that game, but isn’t expected to do so.
Bryant’s injury put a damper on his first game against rookie sensation LeBron James. Bryant went directly from high school to the NBA in 1996 and James did the same this season.
Gary Payton and rookie Brian Cook scored 13 points each, Devean George had 12 points and 12 rebounds, and Slava Medvedenko added 11 points for the Lakers (23-11), who won their second straight after a season-high four-game losing streak.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas led Cleveland with 19 points and eight rebounds. James had 16 points and seven assists, but committed six turnovers. Carlos Boozer had 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavaliers (11-26), who lost for the seventh time in nine games.
The Lakers won by outscoring the Cavaliers 29-14 in the final period.
“This was a good opportunity for us to get a win, and it just comes down to making shots in the fourth,” James said.
The Lakers shot 10-of-20 in the final period to 5-of-20 for the Cavaliers. James missed all five shots he took in the quarter and was 6-of-20 overall.
Bryant was injured with 5.7 seconds left in the first quarter when he faked Cleveland’s Kedrick Brown into the air outside the 3-point line and Brown landed on Bryant’s shoulder.
In obvious pain, Bryant made three free throws, but left the game after the period ended and went to the locker room for X-rays, which were negative.
Bryant returned to the game with 7:33 remaining in the second quarter, but was clearly not himself.
His only shot was a left-handed jumper from outside the foul line that didn’t come close, and he left the game for good shortly thereafter, with 2:27 left before halftime.
Bryant was again taken to the locker room and didn’t return. He finished with 10 points, five rebounds and two assists in 17 minutes.
“He just pump-faked and got me in the air, and I fouled him,” Brown said. “I was just playing ball. I guess he was hurt pretty bad because of the way he was holding it and the fact that he didn’t come back.”
Jackson said Bryant asked to return to the game in the second quarter.
“When he shot the left-handed shot, I realized it was time to move somebody else in there, get him out of the ballgame,” Jackson said. “I was willing to let him have a chance.”
Bryant had surgery on his shoulder June 12—four weeks after the Lakers were eliminated from the second round of the playoffs by San Antonio.
He had an inflamed bursa removed and a frayed labrum trimmed in his shoulder during the operation.
“I could tell when it happened that it was serious,” teammate Derek Fisher said. “The way he was carrying his arm, I could tell it was serious.
“I don’t want to speculate how long he’ll be out. Kobe’s tough. He was still here after the game to congratulate the guys. That says a lot.”
Payton’s jumper with 6:01 remaining triggered a 6-0 run that gave the Lakers a 77-72 lead, and they were on top the rest of the way.
The Cavaliers outscored the Lakers 23-10 to finish the third quarter for a65-60 lead.
The Cavaliers have an NBA-worst 2-18 road record. … The Lakers have a 17-2 home record—the league’s second-best behind Sacramento’s 19-2 mark at Arco Arena. … The Lakers have won eight of their last nine games against the Cavaliers, including all five at Staples Center since the facility opened in 1999. … O’Neal said he’s at about 65 percent, and wants to wait until he’s at 80 percent before returning. “I’ll be back very, very soon,” he said. If he doesn’t play against Denver, O’Neal hopes to return Friday night at Sacramento when the Lakers and Kings play for the first time this season. … James shot 2-of-13 in scoring a season-low four points in Cleveland’s 90-80 loss to theClippers at Staples Center on Dec. 3.