- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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Bryant limited his practice time to rest his twice-surgically repaired right knee, which limited him in the first round against Oklahoma City and caused him to sit out four of the Lakers' final five regular-season games.
His lack of practice, however, did not show as Bryant scored 40 points in the Lakers' 128-107 win in Game 1, the 11th time Bryant has topped the 40-point mark in his postseason career.
"I practice too much during the season and in the offseason I work a lot," Bryant said after the game. "To take a week off, I'm not going to lose all the work I put in prior to that."
Before the start of Monday's series opener, Lakers coach Phil Jackson confirmed to reporters that Bryant had his knee drained, as first reported by the Los Angeles Times. Jackson would not provide information on when the procedure occurred.
"It happened some time ago, so it's kind of over with," Jackson said.
According to a Lakers source, the knee was drained prior to Game 5 of Los Angeles' first-round series against Oklahoma City, more than two weeks ago.
"Just lost weight," Bryant quipped about how having the knee drained affected his performance. "I feel a couple pounds lighter."
Bryant finished 13-for-23 from the field and 11-for-12 from the free-throw line and scored a personal playoff career high for points in a quarter with 21 in the third, narrowly missing the Lakers' record of 22 held by Elgin Baylor.
"Old age," Bryant joked as the reason for his recent string of successful play, taking a shot at his detractors. "[It's] just being in a good rhythm. I've done a lot of work during the season. You've seen me before games working on my shooting all the time with [Lakers special assistant] Chuck [Person] and just working on different things. Now I feel like I have two legs to play with. I have a better balance on my shot, so my shots aren't going short anymore. They're going in. I think it's a combination of those two things."
Jackson said Bryant has had his right knee drained of fluid before.
"It's not unusual, but I can't remember how many times I've ever heard he's had it drained before," Jackson said. "Maybe once or twice."
Bryant showed no ill effects of the knee slowing him down against Utah, averaging 32 points on 52.3 percent shooting in the conference semifinals.
"It's a concern but we're dealing with it and we feel like we have it under control," Jackson said.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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