LOS ANGELES (AP)—Kobe Bryant wore a concerned expression as he hobbled around the Lakers’ locker room.
The Lakers had just beaten the Indiana Pacers 101-87 on Monday night, playing nearly half the game without their leader. Although Bryant was listed as day-to-day with what coach Phil Jackson called a moderate sprain of the right ankle, he wasn’t so sure.
“It should be a lot worse, the way I came down on it,” Bryant said. “I’m happy that I feel the way I feel right now. I don’t know about Wednesday.”
The Lakers return to action Wednesday night against the New Orleans Hornets.
Bryant scored 21 points before being injured early in the third period, with the Lakers leading 65-46. Indiana got as close as seven points late before the Lakers, led by Kwame Brown, outscored the Pacers 11-4 to finish the game.
“It’s always about the next day,” Bryant said. “Tonight was about staying on top of it. The hardest part is keeping the tape on because the ankle swells up and the tape keeps it from swelling. So I’m in for a painful long night.”
Bryant got an offensive rebound and missed an off-balance shot before landing on Indiana center Jeff Foster’s right foot. Bryant was helped off the court before walking to the dressing room without assistance. He came back to the bench a couple minutes later, but didn’t return to the game.
As Bryant sat on the bench, he tested his ankle and then used a large elastic band to keep it loose. He didn’t ice it and didn’t seem to be in pain.
“I said to Phil, ‘If you need me, I’ll go back in.’ And he knows what that means because typically I would just run right up to the scorer’s table if I’m ready to go,” Bryant said. “I would have had to go out there and limp. But if I needed to go out there to be a threat or knock down a couple of jumpers, I could have done it.”
X-rays on Bryant’s ankle were negative.
“I didn’t even know he landed on my foot. I just saw him fall,” Foster said. “When I came out, I asked, ‘Did he land on my foot?’ and someone said, ‘Yeah.’ I thought he would come back. But they were kicking our butts, so there was no reason for him to come back in.”
Brown scored 17 points for the Lakers and Lamar Odom had 15 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out with 1:46 remaining.
The Lakers shot 51.3 percent to Indiana’s 43.3 percent, and outrebounded the Pacers 41-28.
The win was the third straight for the Pacific Division-leading Lakers, while the Pacers dropped their third in a row in the finale of a six-game road trip.
“We’ve got to get better fast because just because we’re going home doesn’t mean that it’s going to cure itself,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said.
The Lakers led 60-44 at halftime and by as many as 22 points in the third quarter before six straight points by Granger and a basket by Jasikevicius made it 85-75 early in the final period.
The Pacers battled back, getting three straight baskets from O’Neal to make it 90-83 with 3:11 remaining. But that was as close as they would get. Three baskets by Brown and a three-point play by Smush Parker put the game away. ^Notes: The Lakers are 11-0 against the Pacers at Staples Center including three wins in the 2000 NBA Finals since the facility opened in 1999. … The Pacers are 5-8 in an NBA-high 13 road games this season. … The Lakers have played 12 home games—second-most in the league behind Golden State’s 13. “It’s OK,” Jackson said of a schedule that has the Lakers playing 15 of their first 20 games at home. “Ask me at the end of February, before the All-Star game, after we catch up.” … The Pacers (9-10) haven’t won more than two in a row or lost more than three straight this season. … Both of the Lakers’ losses at home have come to Eastern Conference teams—Detroit and Milwaukee. … Lakers F-C Brian Cook came down with a case of vertigo Monday, causing him to miss his sixth straight game. … Former Pacers star Reggie Miller, the 12th-leading scorer in NBA history, watched the game from a courtside seat. … Indiana’s Maceo Baston finished with a career-high 10 points—all in the first half.