Sporting a protective mask and coming off another inspired performance, the banged-up Bryant looks to help the Lakers avenge an early season loss to the Sacramento Kings on Friday night at Staples Center.
After being knocked hard to the floor by Miami's Dwyane Wade during Sunday's All-Star game, Bryant played through the discomfort of his injuries and the mask to post 31 points, eight assists and seven rebounds as Los Angeles (21-14) returned from the break to beat Minnesota 104-85 on Wednesday.
"Kobe is a special human being,'' coach Mike Brown said. "I don't have answers for him. I don't know what he's made of. He's just different. His body reacts different.''
Already bothered a by a torn ligament in his wrist, Bryant has not missed a game this season while averaging an NBA-high 28.5 points. The broken nose and concussion left the 33-year-old with headaches, nausea and neck pain. None of which, however, were enough to keep him off the floor after he passed every concussion test from a neurologist.
"I understand the severity of the situation,'' Bryant said. "You have to go through those steps. It's part of the job. ... It's definitely different. In that sense, you're pretty helpless. You just have to be patient and hope for the best.
"You just have to deal with it and try to heal up as quickly as you possibly can, and get back on the court.''
The Lakers were glad to have Bryant on the floor as they shot 48.8 percent to win for the sixth time in eight games. Paul Gasol scored 15 points while All-Star Andrew Bynum added 13 with 13 rebounds as Los Angeles took advantage of a surging Minnesota squad playing without ill star Kevin Love.
Bryant now looks to help the Lakers avoid a second straight loss to the Kings (12-23), who dropped Los Angeles to an 0-2 start with a 100-91 win at Sacramento on Dec. 26. Though Bryant finished with 29 points, the Lakers shot 42.0 percent and went 1 for 16 from 3-point range.
"I hope they enjoy this," Bryant said after that contest.
Bryant has averaged 31.0 points on 47.9 percent shooting in his last 27 games versus Sacramento, but the Kings have won two of three after losing eight straight in the series. Sacramento snapped a six-game road skid to the Lakers with a 100-95 win Jan. 28, 2011.
Sacramento big man DeMarcus Cousins had 27 points with 10 rebounds in that road contest. He finished with 23 and 10, respectively, as the Kings fell for the seventh time in nine games, 108-100 at home to the Clippers on Thursday.
Despite the defeat, the city of Sacramento announced Thursday its plan for a new $391 million arena that would keep the Kings in California's capital for at least another 30 years. With that behind them, they return to the road where they snapped a six-game skid away from home with a 115-107 win at Washington on Feb. 22.
Sacramento swingman Marcus Thornton has averaged 21.1 points in the last seven road games. He's totaled 60 points on 23-of-39 shooting in the last two meetings against the Lakers, but has combined for 17 in two against them as a reserve at Staples Center.
- Kobe Bryant
- Sacramento Kings
- Los Angeles