Lakers prevail despite Bryant's early exit

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

INDIANAPOLIS -- Very little Kobe Bryant. Still no problem for the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers overcome the loss of Bryant in the second half to beat the Indiana Pacers 99-93 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday.
Bryant played only in the first quarter because of a left ankle sprain, an injury that occurred against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. He finished scoreless on four shots, playing 12 minutes.
"Even without Kobe, they're a great team," Pacers point guard George Hill said.
"It was definitely a team effort. Every time we go into another team's building, we just what to get stops," Lakers forward Metta World Peace said. "I feel good."
World Peace, a former Pacer, scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Lakers center Dwight Howard added 20 points and 12 rebounds.
Hill had 27 points, Paul George scored 20 points, and Lance Stephenson added 12 points and 11 rebounds for Indiana (40-25).
The Lakers (35-32) broke an 87-87 tie with less than two minutes remaining when Howard scored and was fouled on the play. Howard, a poor free-throw shooter, completed the three-point play.
David West missed on the Pacers' next possession, and Antawn Jamison (17 points) put the game away when he made the Lakers' 13th 3-pointer of the game.
Los Angeles hit half of its 26 3-point attempts.
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said, "We fell in love with the 3. ... I couldn't keep them from it."
Pacers coach Frank Vogel added, "The spread pick-and-roll game, I didn't even recognize what we were doing out there. Coming off shooters. We left shooters left and right. It was one of those games. We have a good team, we win more than we lose. Tonight, we didn't play a good basketball game."
The Pacers, fueled by their sold-out crowd, jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead off a Hill breakaway dunk and a Stephenson 3-pointer.
They led by seven points midway through the quarter and eventually by as many as 11 points late in the quarter. The Pacers could have led by even more, but their offense was stagnant, allowing the Lakers to easily defend.
Bryant, meanwhile, wasn't himself on the court. His first shot barely touched the rim, and he lacked explosiveness getting to the basket.
The Lakers opened the second quarter trailing by three points, but they took a 25-23 lead on a Howard dunk off an assist from Steve Blake (18 points) with 7:37 left in the half.
They didn't stop there.
Blake followed with a 3-pointer. He hit another 3-pointer a minute later to give the Lakers a six-point lead.
The Lakers eventually led by as many 11 points in the second quarter and by five at halftime.
Hill got his offensive game going in the third quarter.
He scored 10 points in the quarter to help the Pacers overcome their halftime deficit and go up by six less than five minutes in.
The Lakers stayed strong despite the loss of Bryant, climbing within one heading into the final quarter.
"We didn't take advantage of the opportunity we had," West said. "We just didn't defend the 3 and mentally made some errors that cost us. I thought we mentally broke down a couple of times. We just gave up some plays we should not have given up."
NOTES: D'Antoni said power forward Pau Gasol, out with torn plantar fascia since Feb. 5, would play Sunday against the Sacramento Kings or Monday against the Suns in Phoenix. ... Vogel defended former Pacer Dahntay Jones, the player responsible for Bryant's ankle injury. "He is not a dirty player, I coached him for several years," Vogel said. "He's a high-character person, high-character player, respects the game the right way, and there's no way he would intentionally hurt a player."

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