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Bryant day-to-day after ankle sprain

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Posted: Saturday June 10, 2000 01:45 AM

  Kobe Bryant Los Angeles' Kobe Bryant grimaces in pain after spraining his ankle in the first quarter of Game 2. AP

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A frightening sight for the Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant on crutches.

Bryant, half the Lakers' super duo, sprained his left ankle in the first quarter of Friday night's NBA Finals and did not return, although Los Angeles still beat the Indiana Pacers 111-104 to take a 2-0 series lead.

Smiling and joking afterward, Bryant said he wasn't sure he would be able to play by Sunday's Game 3 in Indianapolis.

"It's a good thing we have a cushion, having gone up 2-0, so it's not a do-or-die thing if the doctors don't think I should play Sunday," he said.

In Bryant's absence, league MVP Shaquille O'Neal again led the Lakers -- this time with 40 points and 24 rebounds. Glen Rice and Ron Harper also helped fill the void by scoring 21 points each.

"Kobe going down in the first quarter put a real crimp in our attack," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who noted that O'Neal still was dominant again and that the other Lakers players also stepped up.

Rice cooks after Bryant goes down
The Los Angeles Lakers' third option suddenly became No. 2, and not by choice.

Glen Rice, much maligned throughout the playoffs for his inconsistent play on offense, was up to the challenge.

And so were Ron Harper, Derek Fisher and Robert Horry, who also moved up in the pecking order.

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The coach also said that, when he heard Bryant was not returning, he figured he might also be unable to play Sunday.

Bryant, the Lakers' second-leading scorer and assists leader, hurt his ankle when he made a 12-foot jumper and landed on the foot of Indiana's Jalen Rose.

The Lakers' guard remained on the floor briefly, clutching his ankle. He got to his feet and hopped on his right foot, the pain obvious when he touched his left foot to the floor.

"I've had sprained ankles before and I thought I was going to get up and keep playing. But there was just pain, flat-out pain," said Bryant, who despite his injury came to the interview room -- relatively agile on his shiny new crutches -- smiled and said, "Wassup?"

Bryant, still just 21, laughed and added, "I played on sprained ankles when I was younger, like when I was in high school. But then, I just shot the ball every time. Here they want you to also play defense."

The Lakers led 22-20 at the time, then made another basket before timeout was called and Bryant went to the locker room with 3:05 left in the period.

A two-time NBA All-Star, Bryant had two points and four assists when he left the game.

Brian Shaw and Derek Fisher shared the playing time at Bryant's guard spot afterward.

Bryant is averaging 22.3 points and a team-high 4.5 assists for the Lakers during the playoffs.

He had missed the first 15 games of the season with a broken right hand, suffered during an exhibition game.

Then in the Western Conference Finals against Portland, Bryant sprained his right foot early in the Lakers' 96-88 loss to the Trail Blazers in Game 5 at Staples Center as Portland trimmed Los Angles' lead to 3-2 in the series.

Bryant was questionable for Game 6 in Portland. But he played the entire game and played extremely well, scoring 33 points.

However, the Trail Blazers still beat L.A. 103-93 to force a seventh game.

In that dramatic showdown for the trip to the Finals, Bryant scored 25 points, had 11 rebounds and seven assists and blocked four shots. He also keyed a dramatic comeback as the Lakers rallied from 15 down in the fourth quarter, putting them ahead to stay with two free throws with 1:34 remaining in their 89-84 victory.


 
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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