Injured back won't keep Lakers' Bryant out of lineup for Game 5
Kobe Bryant said the back injury that sent him to the locker room, dropped him to his knees and had him wincing in pain throughout the Lakers' loss to Utah in Game 4 won't keep him out of Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals Wednesday night.
"I'll play," Bryant said. "I can't imagine it being worse than what it was [Sunday] night."
Bryant shot 13-for-33 in Game 4, making only 2 of 13 shots in the fourth quarter and overtime. He wrenched his back on a jump shot in the first quarter and it clearly bothered him throughout the game. At one point he was so landlocked that Utah's Andrei Kirilenko merely had to stand on his tiptoes and reach from behind to block Bryant's shot. His treatment has included electrical stimulation, ice, heat, massage and stretching.Several members of the Jazz said they weren't aware Bryant was hurting until after the game, and expect him to be at full strength in Game 5. "If he puts on his uniform and plays, don't worry about him being hurt," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said Monday. "You'd better be ready to play the guy because he's a great player and he's got the ability to bury you in a lot of different ways. That's what [great players] can do." Said Deron Williams: "I think Kobe's going to be Kobe when it comes Wednesday. I'm not going to expect anything else."
After winning the first two games of the series, the Lakers dropped both games in Utah and are deadlocked at 2-2. The free-flowing offense and excellent ball movement the Lakers enjoyed at home disappeared in the face of the Jazz's better pressure defense in Salt Lake City. That was reflected in a dropoff of assists on 65 percent of the Laker baskets in L.A. to 44 percent in Salt Lake City.
"On the offensive end of the court we have to play with a -- 'purpose' is the term I use a lot of times," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "Sometimes we come down the court and we look like we're not purposeful as a unit."
Jackson said he expects Bryant to play, but that isn't his primary concern."What I have to do is prepare this team to play," Jackson said. Even in a wounded state, Jackson said, "We still think he's efficient in what he did and what we did as a basketball team."
When Bryant was asked if he should have shot so much after injuring his back he said, "I got some pretty good looks. They didn't fall down for me. Some nights they do, some nights they don't."
He said his greatest challenge is elevating.
"I'm glad we don't play tomorrow," Bryant said. "It'll give me another day to recuperate and get ready. I'll be ready to go."
In other news, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak spoke to NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson about the flagrant 2 foul Ronny Turiaf received in Game 4, and the Lakers don't expect Turiaf to be suspended for Game 5.
J.A. Adande is the author of "The Best Los Angeles Sports Arguments." He joined ESPN.com as an NBA columnist in August 2007 after 10 years with the Los Angeles Times. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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