LOS ANGELES (CBS / AP) — Kobe Bryant scored 34 points while playing much of the second half in obvious pain with an injured left leg, and the Los Angeles Lakers rallied in the final minutes without him to stay in the playoff picture with a 118-116 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Friday night.
Immediately after the game, the Lakers announced Bryant probably had a torn tendon. He will have an MRI exam Saturday, but Bryant knows the injury is likely to end his season.
“I can’t walk,” Bryant said. “I tried to maybe put pressure on my heel, but there was nothing there.”
The fifth-leading scorer in NBA history stayed in the game until 3:06 remained despite obvious mobility limitations and two lengthy breaks to walk off an injury from early in the second half. Bryant apparently hyperextended his knee before tearing his tendon later in the half.
Stephen Curry scored 47 points in a dynamic performance for the Warriors, but Los Angeles played just enough late defense to hang on for a crucial win.
It wasn’t immediately clear when Bryant apparently tore his tendon. He went down in a heap under the basket early in the third quarter, rolling on the ground after hyperextending his knee.
Bryant stayed in the game and hit two free throws, but the Warriors began a steady run to a nine-point lead early in the fourth quarter. He needed a few more breaks to rest his legs, but the severe injury apparently didn’t happen until the final minutes.
Los Angeles (43-37) stayed one game ahead of Utah (42-38) for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference with two games to go. The Jazz hold the tiebreaker.
After playing all 48 minutes while scoring 47 points in Portland on Wednesday, Bryant pushed the Lakers relentlessly forward on one good leg, leading a 9-0 run by hitting consecutive 3-pointers to tie it at 107 with 3:47 left. After aggravating the injury one more time with 3:08 left, he stayed in to hit two tying free throws before hobbling to the locker room.
His teammates improbably did just fine without him, with Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard getting huge baskets in the final minutes while the Warriors wilted.
Gasol had 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in his sixth career triple-double. Howard added 28 points and seven rebounds, capping a competent 14-for-22 effort at the free throw line with one last point with 1.5 seconds left.
After Steve Blake hit the Lakers’ go-ahead free throws with 42 seconds left, Jarrett Jack made a turnover and Carl Landry missed an open jumper on the Warriors’ final two possessions. Howard clinched the Lakers’ 10th consecutive home win over Golden State.
Curry scored 22 points in the first quarter and 32 in the first half in a barrage of outside shooting, but didn’t have a field goal in the final 7:19, managing just two free throws in the clutch. He fell one 3-pointer shy of Peja Stojakovic’s record 10 by a Lakers opponent.
Klay Thompson scored 25 points and David Lee added 19 for the Warriors.
Los Angeles began the day barely ahead of the Jazz for the eighth spot, but Utah has the tiebreaker and an easier schedule than the Lakers, who finish against three straight playoff teams. Los Angeles must finish a game ahead of the Jazz to make sure they won’t miss the playoffs for just the second time in Bryant’s 17 NBA seasons — even if Bryant can’t join them.
Curry finished the first quarter with 9-of-13 shooting and two assists, with no Lakers defenders able to keep up. Bryant went scoreless in the first, but heated up for 10 points in the first 3:10 of the second.
Despite Curry’s brilliance, the Warriors were even at 57 with the Lakers at halftime.
The Warriors played for the 49th time this season without center Andrew Bogut, who has a bone bruise in his sprained left ankle. The Australian big man had offseason microfracture surgery on the same ankle, and coach Mark Jackson wasn’t speculating how long the latest injury could keep him out.
Rookie Festus Ezeli took Bogut’s starting spot, getting four points and seven rebounds before fouling out.
NOTES: Steve Nash missed his sixth straight game with a strained right hamstring for the Lakers. … The doctor who performed Bogut’s surgery will examine the results of Bogut’s MRI exam in the next few days. … Denzel Washington, Rick Fox, 50 Cent and Tenacious D members Jack Black and Kyle Gass watched near courtside.
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