EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Kobe Bryant said he jammed his right ankle rather than rolling it after crashing into Devin Harris of the New Jersey Nets, spraining it late in the second quarter of the Lakers’ victory tonight. He said his ankle “burned” after the game. He also vowed to play in Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks, the fifth stop on the Lakers’ seven-game trip.
Bryant suffered a dislocated right pinkie when he jammed it on the body of former Nets guard Jason Kidd during the Lakers’ victory last season over New Jersey at the Meadowlands. He was supposed to have surgery on it, but declined in order to participate in the Beijing Olympics. He put it off again in order to join the Lakers for the start of training camp.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Lakers defeated the New Jersey Nets, 103-95, and clinched the best record in the Western Conference tonight at the Izod Center. Pau Gasol had a season-high 36 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists to lead the Lakers (58-14).
Derek Fisher had 18 points. Kobe Bryant had 14 points and nine assists, but suffered a sprained right ankle that forced him to the locker room inside the final minute of the first half. He returned to score 12 points in the third quarter. He also left the game with only a few seconds left in the game to begin treatment. Vince Carter led the Nets with 20 points.
“We’re not going to pat ourselves on the back,” Lamar Odom said after the Lakers won the West for the second straight season. “We’re on a mission and that’s to get back to the playoffs and do well in the playoffs and hopefully advance to the championship round.”
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Kobe Bryant scored only two points on 1-for-7 shooting before suffering an as yet to be determined leg injury in the closing seconds of the first half tonight. He charged into the New Jersey Nets’ Devin Harris and landed awkwardly. He was tended to by Lakers medical personnel during a 20-second timeout and then headed for the locker room with the Lakers ahead by two points with 52.2 seconds left in the half.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Joe Crawford of the D-Fenders, the Lakers’ developmental league team, signed today with the New York Knicks. Crawford was the Lakers’ lone draft pick last June, but was waived after training camp. He averaged 20.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 43 games for the D-Fenders. Crawford, a guard from Kentucky, was expected to be in uniform for the Knicks’ game tonight against the New Orleans Hornets at Madison Square Garden.
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The Lakers ended a six-game losing streak here tonight with a resounding 92-77 victory over the injury-depleted Detroit Pistons. Kobe Bryant scored 30 points to lead the Lakers to their first win at the Palace of Auburn Hills since January 2002. He also had eight rebounds and seven assists. Derek Fisher added 15 points. Will Bynum led the Pistons with 25 points and 11 assists. Detroit played without injured standouts Allen Iverson (back), Rip Hamilton (groin) and Rasheed Wallace (calf).
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The Lakers hammered the Detroit Pistons in the first quarter tonight, then the Pistons thumped the Lakers in the second. Detroit led by three points at halftime. The Pistons used a 17-0 run to start the second quarter to get back into it after the Lakers led by 25-12. It was the fewest points the Lakers had given up in a first quarter since they held the Portland Trail Blazers to 14 on opening night back on Oct. 28. The second unit got blanked to start the second quarter and the Pistons rallied swiftly.
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Lakers coach Phil Jackson said today he’s uncertain how he will use Andrew Bynum when the 7-foot center comes back from a torn right knee ligament. Jackson suggested that it might be best for Bynum and the Lakers if he filled a reserve role when he first rejoins the active roster. Jackson did not rule out using Bynum as a starter, however.
“We’ll just have to see how he comes back, not when,” Jackson said. “Does he come back in condition where he can play 25 to 30 minutes? Is he going to be a ‘Starbury’ (Stephon Marbury of the Boston Celtics) where he’s playing 12 or 14 minutes a game, and then increase it that way? So, we’ll see how he fits in. He’s running on the court, and that’s about it. He’s doing some basketball skills. There’s a considerable amount of time before he’s even able to practice with us.”
Sun Yue has suffered a sprained left ankle, the Lakers announced today. Sun was injured during a practice Monday with the D-Fenders, the Lakers’ developmental league team. X-rays were negative and an MRI exam confirmed the sprain. He is expected to be sidelined for between three and six weeks. When he’s fit to play, he’ll rejoin the Lakers. Sun, a rookie guard from China, played six games for the D-Fenders and averaged 9.8 points, 3.7 assists and 3.3 rebounds. He also played in 10 games with the Lakers and scored six points in a total of 28 minutes.
OKLAHOMA CITY — After the Lakers silenced the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight, center Pau Gasol displayed a nasty cut on his nose. He was whacked in the face while driving to the basket midway through the second quarter and let the referees know they missed the call. In fact, referee Mark Wunderlich admitted he didn’t see it.
That was about the only thing that went wrong for the Lakers, who led by 17 points after the first quarter and 24 by halftime.
Said Gasol: “We should try to do that more often, absolutely. It’s something that shows character and consistency, and we haven’t been able to do that as often as we should. Hopefully, when we get big leads, on the road especially, we should take care of the game and continue to execute and focus on what we do well on every possession.”
Kobe Bryant on trying to catch the Cleveland Cavaliers for the top record in the NBA: “It’s all about how well we play. We don’t care about that (finishing ahead of Cleveland). We want the best record just to have it, just because of the challenge of it, just to say we did it. Outside of that, it’s just about getting better.”
Coach Phil Jackson on resting his starters in the fourth quarter: “That’s OK. We can’t complain about that. I think we played all right in first quarter. After that we just kind of toyed with the (Thunder). I didn’t like that so much. We never really got back that rhythm we started the game with.”
OKLAHOMA CITY — The Lakers routed the Oklahoma City Thunder, 107-89, tonight at the Ford Center. Kobe Bryant scored 19 points, Lamar Odom had 18 and Josh Powell added 14 in a reserve role. Pau Gasol narrowly missed a triple-double, with 14 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists. Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 24 points. Russell Westbrook, a former UCLA standout, had 10 points and six assists.