ESPN: Kobe Bryant said the back injury that sent him to the locker room, dropped him to his knees and had him wincing in pain throughout the Lakers’ loss to Utah in Game 4 won’t keep him out of Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals Wednesday night.
“I’ll play,” Bryant said. “I can’t imagine it being worse than what it was [Sunday] night.”
Bryant shot 13-for-33 in Game 3, making only 2 of 13 shots in the fourth quarter and overtime. He wrenched his back on a jump shot in the first quarter and it clearly bothered him throughout the game. At one point he was so landlocked that Utah’s Andrei Kirilenko merely had to stand on his tiptoes and reach from behind to block Bryant’s shot. His treatment has included electrical stimulation, ice, heat, massage and stretching.
After winning the first two games of the series, the Lakers dropped both games in Utah and are deadlocked at 2-2. The free-flowing offense and excellent ball movement the Lakers enjoyed at home disappeared in the face of the Jazz’s better pressure defense in Salt Lake City. That was reflected in a dropoff of assists on 65 percent of the Laker baskets in L.A. to 44 percent in Salt Lake City.
“On the offensive end of the court we have to play with a — ‘purpose’ is the term I use a lot of times,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “Sometimes we come down the court and we look like we’re not purposeful as a unit.”