MIAMI — Kobe Bryant, injured and fatigued?
Bryant's play in the fourth quarter has dropped over the last three games, bringing with it a series of questions about his health as the Lakers fall further behind the Denver Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference standings.
Bryant has combined to score six points in the fourth quarter of the Lakers' last three efforts, all losses. He said after the Lakers' 102-89 loss Thursday to the Miami Heat that the severe right ankle sprain that cost him 14 games has been aggravated.
"It just gets a little stiff, so I've got to make sure I keep it loose," Bryant said.
The Lakers' playoff existence might depend on it.
"He missed 14 games," Coach Frank Hamblen said. "He didn't work that hard for 14 games. I know we've played him a lot of minutes. You have to ask him. I know he's playing hurt to some degree."
Bryant finished with 26 points on eight-of-23 shooting.
Laker guard Chucky Atkins, ejected Tuesday against the Washington Wizards after vigorously disputing a call, said in his first public comments since the ejection that he didn't deserve any of the three fouls called against him.
"I was never around him," on the third foul, he said. "Same thing with the other two fouls. It's all good, though. It's over with. It's behind me."
at Indiana, 4:30, Channel 9, ESPN
Site -- Conseco Fieldhouse.
Radio -- 570; 1330.
Records -- Lakers 32-32; Pacers 32-31.
Record vs. Pacers -- 1-0.
Update -- Forward Jermaine O'Neal, who leads the Pacers in scoring (24.8 ppg), is out indefinitely because of a shoulder injury. The Lakers beat the Pacers, 103-94, on March 6 when Bryant scored 37 points.