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Bryant injures ankle but Lakers survive

Dec 5, 2006 - 6:42 AM LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- Kobe Bryant went down but the Los Angeles Lakers didn't.

Prior to injuring his right ankle, Bryant scored 18 of his 21 points in the first half and Kwame Brown added a season-high 17 as the Lakers raced ahead early before holding on late to post their eighth consecutive home victory over the Indiana Pacers, 101-87.

Lamar Odom collected 15 points and 13 rebounds for Los Angeles, which has won its third game in a row.

Bryant netted 10 points in the second quarter, helping the Lakers to a comfortable 60-44 halftime lead.

But he was forced to leave the game with 9:33 left in the third quarter after rolling his right ankle on the foot of Indiana's Jeff Foster while attempting an acrobatic layup. Bryant went to the locker room and later returned to the bench, but just to watch his team hold on to win.

"It (ankle) should be a lot worse the way I came down on it," Bryant said. "I'm happy I feel the way I feel right now. It should be a lot worse."

"Kobe's injury is a modern sprain, we'll consider it day by day," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.

Bryant compared his durability to that of Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson.

"I was out there if they needed me to go out there," Kobe said. "I could play, AI (Iverson) could have got through it."

After three quarters, Los Angeles appeared to be well in control with an 83-65 advantage. But the Pacers crawled back within 90-83 following a jumper by Jermaine O'Neal with 3:11 to go.

"At that point (with Bryant out of game), I just wanted our guys to play hard," Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. "We hadn't been able to sustain it in the first half and I thought we got off to a decent start in the third quarter. I don't hope for anybody to get hurt, especially Kobe because he's a great player. We need him in this league to be playing, even if you're playing against him."

"The team played well ... great first half. The second half we had to fight our way through that struggle," Jackson said.

Brown sandwiched a layup and a dunk around a free throw by O'Neal and Smush Parker converted a three-point play, rebuilding the margin to 97-84 with 60 seconds left.

"Kwame was quick tonight, he went to the basket," Jackson said. "He got in foul trouble, unfortunately, for the limited amount of minutes that he played. But he was certainly the pivotal point for our game. That inside game is really what won the night for us."

O'Neal scored 18 points and pulled down 11 boards and Sarunas Jasikevicius added 16 points off the bench for the Pacers, who ended their six-game road trip with a 2-4 record.

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