Lakers resume playoff push with or without Kobe
The Los Angeles Lakers own sole possession of the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference playoff race, but it has come at a steep price.
Kobe Bryant went down with an ankle sprain and Pau Gasol had a setback with his foot injury this week. The two are expected to be out when the Lakers host the Pacific Division-rival Sacramento Kings Sunday night.
Bryant went down with an ankle sprain in the closing minutes of a loss in Atlanta on Wednesday night. He tried to give it a go Friday in Indiana, but left after playing all 12 minutes of a scoreless first quarter.
The Lakers pressed on and bested the Pacers, and Bryant has been rehabbing ever since. On Saturday, he tweeted that he was suffering from the flu as well.
ESPN Los Angeles reported Bryant is doubtful for Sunday, but also that Gasol suffered a setback in his rehab from a torn plantar fascia in his right foot and will be re-evaluated before the Sacramento game.
Gasol has been out since early February, but had hinted that he could return Sunday.
Without Bryant for the final three quarters against a good Pacers team, the ball moved and everyone got involved for Los Angeles.
Dwight Howard led the way with 20 points and 12 rebounds, Metta World Peace added 19 and Steve Nash netted 15 points and nine assists.
The bench was a huge key as well. Steve Blake posted a season-high 18 points and Antawn Jamison chipped in 17.
"It was our best win of the season," said World Peace. "It's been an up-and- down year, not to our fans liking, as far as the record is concerned. But I would say it's our best win of the season."
The Kings are coming off a lopsided victory Wednesday night, when they crushed the Chicago Bulls, 121-79. It was the second win in their last three outings.
Sacramento led by 14 after one quarter and 29 at halftime. The Kings were up by as many as 45 in the second half, and the 42-point win was by far their biggest margin of victory all season.
"We didn't let up," guard Toney Douglas said. "We weren't satisfied."
The starting backcourt of Tyreke Evans and Isaiah Thomas combined for 48 points on 19-for-27 shooting. Evans himself went 11-for-13 from the field.
DeMarcus Cousins, who missed the Chicago game with a left quad contusion, was unable to practice on Friday and the team is preparing for Sunday night's game as if he won't play.
"I think in this case here, you plan as if he's not (playing), and then if he can go, it's a bonus," said Kings head coach Keith Smart. "We (practiced Friday) as if he isn't going to be (available)."
The two teams have split this season's two games, with each winning on their home floor. The Kings have dropped eight of their last nine on the road in this series.