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Kobe Leaves Early, But Blake Picks Up Slack To Help Lakers Beat Pacers

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Kobe Bryant lasted just one quarter on a severely sprained left ankle, then watched Dwight Howard complete a go-ahead, three-point play with 90 seconds left Friday night to help the Los Angeles Lakers hold off the Indiana Pacers, 99-93.

Bryant started two nights after he was hurt but was ineffective. He went 0 for 4 in the first quarter, then went to the bench and did not return. He spent the second half holding a black box with wires running down to the injured ankle as he cheered on the Lakers (35-32).

Howard finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Metta World Peace had 19 points.

George Hill scored 27 points and Paul George had 20 for Indiana.

It looked like Indiana (40-25) would take advantage of Bryant’s absence, pulling ahead early in the third quarter. But Howard’s three-point play broke an 87-all tie and the Lakers closed the game on a 10-3 run.

After the final buzzer sounded, Bryant gave his teammates high-fives and hobbled into the locker room.

It wasn’t clear whether Bryant would play Saturday night when Los Angeles returns home to play Sacramento.

Bryant wasn’t the only player struggling on this strange night.

Los Angeles opened the game by missing its first five shots. The Pacers opened the second quarter 0 for 6. And neither team topped the 30 percent shooting mark until the final 2 1/2 minutes of the half.

The other stars had trouble, too. George, the Pacers’ All-Star, started 0 for 4, and Howard, another All-Star, was called for two personal fouls and a technical less than five minutes into the game.

Even the officials found themselves making corrections, twice adding time to the clock in the final five seconds of the first half.

How odd was it?

Bryant wasn’t just coaching and contesting calls from the bench, he even diagrammed a play for Howard after the center went to the bench midway through the second quarter with his third foul.

And then there were the oddities of the game.

Indiana used an early 8-0 run to take a 19-8 lead, then gave up 12 straight points. When the Lakers followed that rally with an 18-5 run — with Howard on the bench for part of it after picking up his third foul and Bryant on the bench for all of — the Lakers led 39-28.

The Pacers, the NBA’s fifth-best home team, closed on a 13-7 run to get within 46-41 at the half.

Indiana continued its charge early in the third, using a 15-4 spurt to take a 56-50 lead, then let the Lakers come back and eventually took a 69-68 lead into the fourth.

Notes: The Pacers are now 26-8 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this season. … In the final 5.2 seconds of the first half, there were two replay reviews, a 20-second timeout, time added to the clock twice and no points. … The Lakers are 6-8 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, with three straight wins on the Pacers’ home court. … Earlier Friday, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said forward Pau Gasol could return in the next few days. He hasn’t played since early February after tearing the plantar fascia in his right foot.

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