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HELENE ELLIOTT

There's no rest for the Lakers' weary Kobe Bryant

He follows up a dreadful shooting night with a 40-point game against the Warriors. He had cited fatigue as a factor in Saturday's game, but also takes doubters to task for underestimating his drive.

April 01, 2012|Helene Elliott

Kobe Bryant said he doesn't fret over bad shooting nights, and he has had more than a few occasions to worry recently. His three-for-21 performance on Saturday against New Orleans was his 15th sub-.500 shooting game in 16, but he didn't lose any sleep over it.

So he said he didn't approach the Lakers' game against Golden State on Sunday as a chance at redemption, or anything so trite as that.

"That's not going to happen," he said. "I had an 81-point game. That's just not going to happen tomorrow."

How he motivates himself and truly feels is something he keeps well hidden. He had a 40-point game Sunday, not as spectacular as that 81-point effort but certainly enough to help lift the Lakers to a 120-112 victory over the stubborn Warriors at Staples Center.

Their performance fit their recent pattern in every way except his shooting.

After losing Andrew Bynum to a sprained left ankle late in the first quarter, the Lakers pulled away in the third but couldn't close out the Warriors in the fourth. But the key difference for them Sunday was that Bryant hit 16 of 28 shots, including all three he took from three-point range, for his fifth 40-point game this season and 112th of his career.

"It felt good for an old team to score 120 points," Bryant said.

Bryant wouldn't admit Sunday to being inspired to do better than he had Saturday, when he missed his first 15 shots but hit a key three-pointer in a dreary 88-85 victory over the injury-decimated Hornets. He started well on Sunday — he hit his first two shots — and finished well, hitting three of five field goals in the fourth quarter, including three-pointers that put them ahead, 109-99, and again at 115-109.

For Bryant, it was another night at the office. For teammate Ramon Sessions, it was a remarkable rebound.

"That's what he's been doing his whole career. He bounced back tonight. It just shows you how great of a player he is," said Sessions, who finished with 23 points, nine assists and three rebounds in 32 minutes and 55 seconds.

"He hit a big shot for us [Saturday] night and tonight he came out and carried us."

Bryant had cited fatigue Saturday as a possible cause for his 11-point performance against the Hornets but said he felt fine Sunday.

"Ta-da!" he said, smiling. "It's a miracle. He walks."

And talks. And shoots and scores.

As much as the Lakers diversify their offense, as important as Sessions has been and will be — and as challenged as they will be if they have to play without Bynum for any great length of time — this still comes back to Bryant.

This is still Bryant's team, still his indomitable will that can carry them the distance.

Doubt him if you will — and he has given cause to question the amount and frequency of his shooting — but he's still the heart of this team.

The doubters don't bother him, he said, not even hearing the criticism they offered in analyzing Saturday's near-debacle.

"It's interesting to me to hear people talk after a game like that, that I'm done and all that stuff," he said. "The amount of idiots that live out here, after 16 years, is baffling to me. I guess people just get dumber over the years."

Including those who carp about his efforts.

"We're all surrounded by idiots. All of us," he said. "We're all surrounded by idiots."

Not a diplomatic way to treat the fans who are paying the ever-increasing freight to see him play. Or did he mean the media gathered around his locker?

"Take it as you wish," he said.

"The only thing that people need to know, even if I told them I'd come out here with a sprained ankle and all sorts of stuff, they know after 16 years I'm going to go out there and do my job and I'm going to perform. And whether I struggle for 31/2 quarters or whatever the case may be I'm going to play hard. I'm going to put my team in a position to win."

They won Sunday without anything from Bynum after the first quarter. If they have to go without their center for a while, they'll need a lot more performances from Bryant like Sunday's.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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