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Hawks edge Lakers; Kobe out indefinitely

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Mar 14 2013 08:22:24 AM CDT
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, 2012

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

ATLANTA -

While the short-handed Atlanta Hawks celebrated a 96-92 victory over Los Angeles on Wednesday night at Phillips Arena, the Lakers were holding their breath.

As the game was winding down, Kobe Bryant missed a potential game-tying fadeway jumper. While the shot went off the mark, Bryant landed on top Dahntay Jones' foot and suffered a severely sprained ankle.

After the game, X-rays were taken and came back negative. The Lakers will have to continue their playoff push without Bryant, who will be out indefinitely.

With both teams fighting for playoff position and both playing for the second consecutive night -- Wednesday's game was a tough, physical game.

With Josh Smith on the bench with a sprained left knee and starting point guard Jeff Teague out with a sprained left ankle, Al Horford muscled his way on both ends of the court to set the tone for the Hawks. He scored 14 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, the final one with 33 seconds left in the game.

"This was an important game," Horford said. "And I wanted to make sure we set the tone early in the game. Everyone in this locker room that was playing contributed today. You can't ask for anything more than that."

Devin Harris, starting at point guard for Teague, had only eight points through three quarters, but scored nine straight midway through the fourth quarter to finish with 17 points.

"We knew that we would be short-handed without Jeff and Josh Smith," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "I just told the guys I wanted them to go out and, number one, have fun. I want to see the joy on their faces again."

Bryant went scoreless in the first quarter and had only three first-half points.

In the third period, he exploded for 20 points. But he couldn't sustain the surge and finished with 31 points.

Metta World Peace scored 20 points and had eight rebounds for the Lakers (34-32). Steve Nash added 11 points and Dwight Howard, who picked up his fourth foul midway through the third quarter, had 16 rebounds to go with 10 points.

"We just didn't make any shots," Nash said. "I feel like I killed us tonight. I had good looks at the basket; I didn't convert. I'm definitely disappointed. We didn't have our A-game but we had a chance to win.

"To be honest, I don't think we had a real bounce in our step."

The Hawks came into the game having lost three straight and six of last seven. The Lakers had won four straight.

Both teams played Tuesday night and traveled, which translated into early air balls on both sides. But once Horford and Howard jammed huge dunks within 18 seconds of each other at 8: 28 (Howard) and 8:10 (Horford), the teams settled down.

The Hawks (35-29) led by as many as 14 points and were up 55-43 after the first half. The Hawks bench made an immediate impact when they started filtering in.

"We lost because we gave up 55 in the first half," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "You can't do that. We were playing with fire. We've done it about four times, come back and win. ... We need to come out and play harder defensively, like we did the second half."

Ivan Johnson had 12 points and eight rebounds. Kyle Korver scored 15 points and John Jenkins added 12. Johan Petro had 10 points and 11 rebounds, his first double-double in three years.

NOTES: Drew wasn't expecting to have Zaza Pachulia back -- Pachulia is getting a second opinion on his sore right Achilles -- but he didn't think he'd be dealing with injuries to two other starters. Teague tried moving on the left ankle he sprained in Tuesday's 98-81 loss to the Heat in Miami but couldn't do it well enough to go. Josh Smith sprained his left knee in that game and did not play. ... Drew says that given the state of his players' health and the schedule, he's going to have to take more care not to run guys into the ground at practice and give them more time off. ... D'Antoni wasn't going for the idea that the Hawks' latest injuries made his team's task easier. "It doesn't change anything," he said. "It's all about we need to do what we do." ... Asked what he thought of the strategy of putting Howard on the free-throw line an NBA record-tying 39 times in Tuesday night's 106-97 win over the Magic in Orlando, D'Antoni said, "We're in the entertainment business. That's not entertaining." Then he added, chuckling, "I've tried it. I'm kind of like if I can't beat you ... I understand why they do it."