ATLANTA (CBSLA.com/AP) — The Lakers will need to figure out how to win without their leader for a while.
Bryant drove the baseline with a chance to force overtime but watched his jumper slide off the rim with 3 seconds remaining. Making matters worse, he landed on Dahntay Jones’ foot and twisted his left ankle, crumpling to the court in pain. Bryant finished with 31 points, but made just 11 of 33 shots as the Hawks held off the Lakers 96-92 on Wednesday night
Bryant hobbled off and seemed OK before Kyle Korver knocked down two free throws to clinch it. An X-Ray was done on Kobe’s left leg in the locker room after the game, and the injury has been identified as a severe sprain. It was announced shortly after that Kobe is currently out indefinitely.
Kobe spoke to reporters after the announcement and revealed the degree of the injury. When asked if the sprain was as bad as any he’s had over the last 13 years, Kobe responded, “Yup.”
Bryant also made the point that the defensive play that caused the injury was dangerous, and that Jones walked under him when he shot.
“As defensive players you can contest shots,” Kobe explained. “But you can’t walk underneath players. That’s dangerous for the shooter.”
Kobe made the point that officials need to watch for those types of plays.
“Officials need to protect shooters,” Bryant said. “Especially if I’m fading away. There’s no rhyme or reason why I should come down anywhere near somebody’s foot.”
Kobe also hinted that the injury may develop cause for future grievance. “I just can’t get my head past the fact that I need to wait a year to get revenge,” Bryant said.
“He can’t be Superman every day,” coach Mike D’Antoni said.
Atlanta won for just the second time in eight games despite missing Josh Smith and Jeff Teague.
The Hawks got contributions all around. Harris scored nine straight points in the fourth quarter to help the Hawks regain the upper hand after the Lakers went up 80-76. But the biggest basket was made by Johnson with the Hawks clinging to a three-point lead.
Al Horford drove along the baseline and missed the shot. But he hustled for the rebound and knocked it right to Johnson under the basket. He flipped in a reverse layup with 33.3 seconds remaining, pushing the Hawks ahead 92-87.
After the Lakers called a timeout, Horford gave Johnson a big hug on the way to the bench. Smith, in street clothes, mockingly threw punches at the burly forward.
But the Lakers had a chance. John Jenkins and Korver both missed free throws, and Bryant knocked down a turnaround 3-pointer off an inbound pass with Jones right in his face.
That turned out to be their last hurrah. Atlanta snapped the Lakers’ four-game winning streak and handed them just their third loss in the last 12 games, at least slowing their bid to rally for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Led by Harris, six players scored in double figures for Atlanta. Korver had 15, Horford 14, Johnson and Jenkins 12 apiece, and Johan Petro 10.
After scoring just three points in the first half, Bryant was unstoppable in the third. He made eight shots and almost single-handedly wiped out Atlanta’s 55-43 halftime lead.
Without Smith and Teague, Atlanta sent out a patchwork lineup that left some in the crowd with puzzled looks during the introductions: Harris and Jones in the backcourt, Anthony Tolliver and Horford at the forward spots, and Petro at center.
But the Hawks came out with an inspired first half, getting contributions from both the starters and the reserves. Horford, Harris and Petro all scored eight points, while Horford and Petro grabbed eight rebounds apiece. Jenkins chipped in with eight points off the bench, while Korver added seven, Johnson six and even Shelvin Mack — on a 10-day contract — scored four points.
Bryant, meanwhile, made only 1-of-8 from the field.
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