Gasol injured in Lakers' road win over Nets
Yet when it was over, after Kobe Bryant showed everyone he isn't quite that pass-happy with a pair of spectacular drives in the final moments of the Lakers' 92-83 win over the Brooklyn Nets, the Lakers had more bad news to deal Tuesday night.
Center Pau Gasol, filling in for the injured Dwight Howard, had injured his right foot, and the Lakers said he had a plantar fasciitis strain. He told reporters he felt a "pop" when he landed late in the fourth quarter and was seen leaving the arena on crutches. He will undergo an MRI on Wednesday in Boston, the team said.
"No, it got worse, it got worse," Bryant said of the Lakers' fate after winning their sixth game in their last seven and beating the Nets for the 10th straight time. "We can't afford to lose Pau for a long stretch. We need to get him back."
Bryant scored 21 points for the Lakers (23-26), who were already without Howard and Metta World Peace.
Howard, who once seemed set to join the Nets before becoming a Laker, was out with a shoulder injury, while World Peace served a suspension for his altercation against the Detroit Pistons on Sunday.
Gasol, who told the Los Angeles Times earlier this week he might seek a trade in the offseason if Howard and coach Mike D'Antoni remained with the team, added 15 points before he exited with about four minutes left in the game. He had landed hard and initially tried to stay in the game, before limping off. Steve Nash had 17 points and eight assists for the Lakers.
"I'm very, very concerned about it," Bryant said of the injury to Gasol, who has had some disagreements with D'Antoni but played well in Howard's absence the past three games.
Center Brook Lopez led the Nets with 30 points and 11 rebounds, including 12 points in the fourth quarter as he tried to swing the game and the fans' allegiance back to Brooklyn down the stretch. Fans peppered the arena with purple and yellow and chanted for Bryant and the Lakers throughout the game. But Lopez also missed a couple of key shots and blamed himself for some defensive lapses as Bryant and the Lakers took over in the final few minutes.
"To their credit, they closed out the game well," Lopez said. "I just feel like those last two-and-a-half minutes were about as bad as I've played on both ends of the floor all season."
The crowd noise changed with each big play in the final moments, as Bryant's spectacular drive through the lane and one-handed slam prompted a loud ovation as he gave the Lakers an 82-80 lead with 2:46 left. But Lopez immediately answered with a three-point play on an off-balance jumper and foul shot for an 83-82 lead 13 seconds later as the Nets fans found their voice.
Back came Los Angeles, which scored the final 10 points as Antawn Jamison hit a jumper, Bryant again drove to the basket for a slam -- this time gliding across the baseline -- and Earl Clark hit a jumper, giving the Lakers an 88-83 lead with 1:11 left. Nash added four free throws to clinch the game.
Bryant, who has been distributing the ball more lately, said he was stunned to see how wide open the lane was on his one-handed slam with 2:46 left.
"I think everybody's been drinking the 'Kobe-pass Kool-Aid,' so everyone was staying on the perimeter with the shooters," Bryant said with a smile. "It parted like the Red Sea."
In between the Lakers' flurry, Lopez missed a couple of attempts, including an air ball, as Los Angeles (23-26) went onto the win and a loud ovation from the crowd, which chanted "MVP!" for Bryant throughout the game.
"From my perspective, it's pretty damn cool, so I enjoyed it immensely," Bryant said of hearing such a chant on the road.
Deron Williams had 15 points and six assists for the Nets (28-20), who were unable to take advantage of the Lakers playing without two starters for the whole game and three key players for the final few minutes.
"It was very frustrating," said Nets forward Gerald Wallace, who was 3 of 10 from the field for nine points while Brooklyn shot 34.8 percent from the field overall. "I think we didn't play with energy this game and, for the most part, it's on me. I didn't make open shots when they were double-teaming Joe (Johnson) and Deron, so I take full responsibility for that. I have to make those shots."
The Lakers also got key contributions from players who stepped up with their regulars out, as Clark scored 14 points and Steve Blake had seven off the bench, all coming to start the fourth quarter. Bryant said the performance should serve as a "confidence boost" for those players.
NOTES: World Peace was suspended for one game for striking Pistons guard Brandon Knight in the jaw and grabbing him around the neck in the second quarter of Sunday's game. ... Howard missed his third straight game with a torn labrum in his right shoulder but told reporters at shootaround he was in "no rush" to return because he wanted the injury to heal. Though Howard has acknowledged in the past he initially wanted the Orlando Magic to trade him to the Brooklyn Nets, he deflected questions about coming to the Barclays Center for the first time as a Laker, saying he just wanted the team to win. Asked about Howard's "toughness" in not playing through his shoulder injury, Bryant said he thought Howard simply had a lack of experience dealing with injuries since he hasn't had many significant ones in his career. ... Williams, who had recruited Howard to the Nets, said this week he and the Lakers center "haven't talked as much as we had before everything went on. I don't know what the reason is."
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