Lakers expect three injured starters to play in N.O.

March, 6, 2013
3/06/13
12:29
AM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Los Angeles Lakers might have been able to forget about their loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder as soon as they boarded the plane to fly to New Orleans for a back-to-back Wednesday, but it will be a little harder for their bodies to forget what happened.

Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace all sustained a physical setback in L.A.'s 122-105 loss Tuesday, but all plan to play against the Hornets.

Bryant suffered an ulnar nerve contusion in the first quarter -- aggravating a funny bone injury he has been dealing with for most of the season -- and had to leave the court to receive treatment, before returning to score 30 points on 8-for-19 shooting.

"I just got popped on a nerve," Bryant said. "That's the exact reason why I wear the sleeve is to protect that thing, and I just got popped right on that button."

Bryant initially seemed to hurt the elbow while catching a pass from Steve Nash. The injury flared up several other times throughout the game, such as when Bryant drove to the lane or got his arms tangled up with Thunder center Kendrick Perkins as they jockeyed for a rebound.

"Every time you try to bend your elbow extended with a little resistance, it's a lot of pain," Bryant said.

Bryant was able to keep up his scoring streak, topping 30 points for the fifth time in the past six games, but his efficiency dropped, as he shot just 42.1 percent; he had gone into the contest shooting better than 56 percent over his previous five games.

"You got to adjust your shooting mechanics, and I wasn't able to hold my follow-through too much, but you just got to adjust to it and go from there," Bryant said.

He missed only a couple of minutes of game time, checking out with 8:40 to go in the first quarter and returning with 4:01 remaining, so it's no surprise Bryant will be back in uniform going forward.

"This is a critical part of the season, to say the least, so I'm going to play," Bryant said.

Howard also got hurt in the first quarter, needing the team to call timeout when he aggravated the torn labrum in his right shoulder that has caused him to miss six games already this season.

"It was bugging me the whole game," Howard said.

What also had to bug him was the way the injury happened, as he collided with a teammate by mistake.

"Metta was trying to run through and I was trying to run back, and as he was turning around his momentum pulled my arm all the way back [across my body], and it's been bugging me since," Howard said. "I just played through it as much as I can and I try not to worry about it."

The All-Star center said this aggravation wasn't like the previous two that caused him to miss games, however.

"It was different," Howard said. "The last ones were me going up, but this one just came across my body, so it was a different kind of hit. But I'm just in a lot of pain."

After World Peace unintentionally hurt Howard early, he unintentionally hurt himself late. World Peace scored 10 fourth-quarter points, but he stepped on an opponent's foot and had to exit the game because of his rolled right ankle with 2:24 remaining and the Lakers trailing by nine.

"I did the Harlem Shake, then I twisted my ankle," World Peace joked after the game as his feet and ankles rested in an ice bath. "But it will be OK."

World Peace underwent an X-ray on his right ankle after the game, and it came back inconclusive. He will have further tests Wednesday in New Orleans, even though he said he planned to play.

"It didn't say nothing," World Peace said of the X-ray. "It's probably just sore."

World Peace seemed shocked to hear that he was the cause of Howard's pain, but was confident he and his teammates would conquer their various maladies.

"Oh, that sucks," World Peace said when informed of the pain in Howard's shoulder. "He's OK? I didn't see him since it happened, but we should be OK, though."

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 9.7
AssistsK. Marshall 8.8
StealsJ. Meeks 1.4
BlocksP. Gasol 1.5