That's why it was both amusing and unsettling when Bryant made his first field goal with 7:30 left in the fourth quarter to cut the Hornets' lead to 75-67. Bryant caught a pass from Pau Gasol from the left elbow, nailed a 17-foot jumper and prompted everyone at Staples Center to go berserk as if the Black Mamba had never made a shot in his life. Converting a contested layup that reduced the Hornets' lead to 77-69 with 6:24 left created a similar reaction, while Bryant pumped his fist with delight. And there was sure a sense of irony when "M-V-P" chants reigned over Staples Center as he hit one of two free throws to slice the gap to 79-76 with 4:24 left.
"I've seen a lot of people run away from those type of situations," Bryant said, and sure, feel free to say LeBron James. "When the ball is not going and you're 0 of 15, it's a steep hill."
What remains a steeper hill involves when, or if, Bryant will rest. The Lakers play five games next week, including two sets of back-to-back games. The Lakers then have nine more games in 18 days, including one set of back-to-back games. Their only stretch of multiple days off is between their April 22 game against Oklahoma City and their season finale against Sacramento on April 26.
Bryant might have adjusted in time Saturday to barely scrape by against the West's worst team. He won't have that luxury against better clubs.
"I'm going to be fine," Bryant said. "I'll be OK. I'll figure it out and always have."
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Kobe Bryant admits fatigue in Lakers' 88-85 win over Hornets