Lakers guard Kobe Bryant dunks during the second half of the Lakers'… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
Kobe Bryant eased his way out of the Lakers' locker room about 45 minutes after Tuesday night's game at Staples Center and kissed his wife, Vanessa, who was sitting in the hallway.
Then Bryant eased his way down the hallway to the postgame interview room, hardly any limp, just a steady, slow walk on a sprained left ankle.
Bryant played 28 minutes 38 seconds on the injured ankle, scoring 19 points on eight-for-13 shooting, doing his part to help the Lakers defeat the New Orleans Hornets, 106-90, to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference playoff series.
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Now Bryant sat in a chair, surveying the room, knowing almost every question would be about the ankle he injured in the fourth quarter of Game 4 in New Orleans.
"It's felt all right," Bryant said.
When Bryant went down Sunday night, he looked anything but all right.
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He walked out of New Orleans Arena on crutches.
Then he had to take the four-hour flight back to Los Angeles.
He had refused to get an MRI or any kind of examination on the ankle Monday.
So after Tuesday night's game, Bryant was asked to describe what he did over the last two days to get the ankle ready enough to play.
"What, am I on a reality show?" Bryant said to laughs.
Bryant then said he gave the ankle around-the-clock treatment, getting little sleep in the process.
"The mobility is good," Bryant said. "That's really the key. You don't want it to get stiff."
Early on, Bryant looked the part of an injured player.
He had difficulty on defense.
He didn't take a shot in the first quarter.
He scored his first point on a free throw with 5:46 left in the first.
Bryant made his first field goal with 7:52 left in the second quarter.
Then the big moment came for Bryant, for his teammates and the fans, a moment that seemed to set Bryant free from the pain in the ankle.
He drove hard down the lane and dunked over Hornets 6-10 center Emeka Okafor in the second quarter, exciting the crowd and his teammates.
"It's a message for us that this is important," Bryant said. "It's time to raise up and do what we've got to do."
Bryant had another dunk in the third quarter, a left-handed dunk after he flew by Carl Landry.
Bryant came out of the game with 2:59 left and sat on the bench for a few seconds. Then he grabbed a towel and gingerly walked to the Lakers' locker room with 2:15 left, a smile on face, his sprained left ankle having held up.
Game 6 is Thursday night in New Orleans.
Bryant will have to get back on a plane and fly four more hours.
When asked what will happen for him going forward, Bryant smiled before he answered.
"Doubtful for Thursday," Bryant joked. "We'll close on that."
And with that, Bryant got up out of his seat and eased his way back down the hallway, his sprained left ankle holding up just fine.