Bryant leaves early, but Lakers beat Pacer
Updated: 2013-03-17 07:33
When Kobe Bryant's playing days end, perhaps he has a future in coaching.
If the transition goes as smoothly as it did Friday night, nobody will quibble.
After hobbling around on a severely sprained left ankle for one quarter, Bryant took himself out of the game and made sure he was the most valuable player on the Lakers' bench.
He exhorted his teammates to play hard, to read the defense and to take advantage of any openings they found against Indiana. He diagrammed plays and pulled players aside, coaching them up all night.
Then, Dwight Howard completed a tiebreaking three-point play with 90 seconds to go, and the Lakers pulled away from Indiana for a 99-93 win.
"I'm just going to keep coaching, you know what I mean?" Bryant said, drawing laughter when asked what he would do if he missed any more time on the court. "I'm going to try and put guys in position to be successful, you know?"
Why not, given Bryant's penchant for improvising when things don't always follow the script?
At Indiana, the five-time NBA champ and two-time Finals MVP showed there's a lot more to his game than simply being durable and scoring points.
He relied on his extensive film study and 17 years of dissecting NBA defenses to find weaknesses that could be exploited against the Pacers.
Eventually, all that hard work paid big dividends by getting the Lakers (35-32) arguably their most important win of the season.
"It was our best win of the season," said Metta World Peace, who had 19 points and seven rebounds in his return to Indy. "It's been an up-and-down year, not to our fans' liking as far as the record is concerned. But I would say it's our best win of the season."