The Los Angeles Lakers came away with a big win in their quest for the playoffs but lost injured superstar Kobe Bryant for the rest of the season.
Bryant scored 34 points while playing through a left foot injury and the Lakers edged the visiting Golden State Warriors 118-116 on Friday. In obvious pain, Bryant hobbled off the Staples Center court with three minutes six seconds remaining and into the locker, his season over no matter what the Lakers do in the final two regular-season games.
Bryant was due to have an MRI exam yesterday, but the Lakers said the heart and soul of the club has a “probable” left Achilles’ tendon tear.
Bryant didn’t have to be told of the severity of the injury after hitting the deck while making a move on Harrison Barnes. “I made the move a million times and it popped,” said the glassy-eyed Bryant afterward. “I have no Achilles, I can’t walk, I tried to put pressure on my heel but there’s nothing there.”
Asked if this was the biggest disappointment in his 17-year career the admittedly upset and dejected 34-year-old Bryant said, “By far. We’ve worked so hard to put ourselves in position to control our own fate and I’ve done a lot of work to prepare myself for this. I’m pissed and I’m sad.”
The Lakers remain a game ahead of Utah (42-38) for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference with two games left. The Jazz own the tiebreaker, should the teams finish the regular season with identical records.
Dwight Howard scored 28 points for the Lakers, while Spaniard Pau Gasol had 26 with 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his sixth career triple-double, but it was a bittersweet performance after learning of the news. “It’s a difficult time because I feel for him,” Gasol said of his teammate and close friend. “It’s hard for me to see him like that because he doesn’t deserve it. I hate it happened to him.”
Despite the blow, Gasol remains optimistic the Lakers can make the post-season. “It’s going to take a lot of togetherness because with Kobe not on the floor we play differently,” he said. “We’ll figure it out and if we play with our minds and hearts like we fought tonight, we should he OK.”
Elsewhere: Utah Jazz 107, Minnesota Timberwolves 100: Al Jefferson scored a career-high-tying 40 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as the Jazz kept pace with the LA Lakers after trimming the lottery-bound Timberwolves.
Miami Heat 109, Boston Celtics 101: LeBron James had 20 points with nine assists and the host Heat, the top overall seed in the playoffs, extended its single season franchise-record for victories to 63 after beating the playoff-bound Celtics.
New York Knicks 101, Cleveland Cavaliers 91: Carmelo Anthony had 31 points and 14 rebounds, while J.R. Smith also scored 31, and the Atlantic Division Champions bounced back to beat the lottery-bound Cavs, a night after their 13-game winning streak was snapped by Chicago.
Brooklyn Nets 117, Indiana Pacers 109: Deron Williams had 33 points and 14 assists, and the visiting Nets strengthened their hold on the fourth playoff seed in the East after completing a season-sweep over the playoff-bound Pacers.
Toronto Raptors 97, Chicago Bulls 88: Amir Johnson scored 24 points, Rudy Gay added 23 and the host Raptors beat the playoff-bound Bulls, who got 19 points and 12 rebounds from Carlos Boozer.
Atlanta Hawks 109, Milwaukee Bucks 104: Josh Smith and Jeff Teague netted 24 points apiece, and the Hawks beat the visiting Bucks despite a 27-point, career-high 17-assist, 8-rebound effort by Monta Ellis.
Memphis Grizzlies 82, Houston Rockets 78: Spaniard Marc Gasol had 15 points with 12 rebounds and the visiting Grizzlies moved into tie with Denver for the third playoff seed in the West. James Harden scored 30 points for Houston, which currently occupies the seventh playoff seed in the West.
San Antonio Spurs 108, Sacramento Kings 98: Tony Parker had 22 points and 10 assists after missing two games with a neck injury, and the Spurs beat the visiting Kings to remain a game behind Oklahoma City for the top playoff seed in the West. Russell Westbrook scored 17 of 33 points in the dominant 24-7 third quarter, and the visiting Thunder clinched its third straight Northwest Division crown after sending the playoff-eliminated Trail Blazers to their 10th straight loss.
LA Clippers 96, New Orleans Hornets 93: Blake Griffin scored 20 points, and Chris Paul hit all six free throws in the final 17 seconds to cap a 17-point, 14-assist effort as the Pacific Division Champion Clippers edged the lottery-bound Hornets despite Eric Gordon’s game-high 25 points.
Dallas Mavericks 108, Denver Nuggets 105 (OT); Vince Carter had 22 points and 12 rebounds, German juggernaut Dirk Nowitzki added 22 and 10 boards and the playoff-eliminated Mavericks dropped the visiting Nuggets.
In other games involving lottery-bound teams: the visiting Philadelphia 76ers beat the Washington Wizards 97-86; and the host Detroit Pistons bounced the league-worst Charlotte Bobcats 113-93.