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LAKERS FYI

Kobe Bryant has been hitting the big times

The Lakers star is logging a lot of minutes — 48 in a victory over the Portland Trail Blazers — as he tries to carry his short-handed team toward the playoffs.

April 11, 2013|By Ben Bolch

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Kobe Bryant would like some rest eventually. Just not a whole summer's worth.

The finish line to the Lakers' playoff push is in sight, and Bryant is ready to breast the tape at the point of unconsciousness if necessary.

"Three more [games] and then get a couple of days off, hopefully," Bryant said Wednesday night after squeezing 48 minutes and a season-high 47 points out of himself during the Lakers' 113-106 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.

About the only time Bryant has left the court in the Lakers' last six games has been for timeout huddles and at halftime. He has averaged 45 minutes per game and made the most of the heavy workload, helping his team go 5-1 while taking a one-game lead over Utah for the final playoff berth in the Western Conference.

"He's just determined to get us in the playoffs," Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said.

Bryant said he checks in with his coach at the end of each quarter, flashing a thumbs up if he's ready to keep playing. If not, he'll concede he needs a short break.

"Against Memphis, a couple of times I took myself out of the game because I was so exhausted," said Bryant, who played 42 minutes April 5 during the Lakers' victory over the Grizzlies. "But I'm honest about it. If I feel like I'm out there cutting corners, I'll sit down for a minute. And it will only be a minute."

Bryant is logging so many minutes in part because the Lakers are short-handed. Steve Nash has missed the last five games because of hip and hamstring soreness, and Metta World Peace recently returned after missing six games because of torn cartilage in his left knee.

Nash's status for the Lakers' game against the Golden State Warriors on Friday at Staples Center remained unclear.

Bryant has shrugged off his own injury issues, the bone spurs in his left foot and a severely sprained ankle hardly slowing him as the minutes continue to pile up along with the points and assists.

His averages of 28.0 points and 9.2 assists over the last six games are a few ticks above his respective season averages of 27.3 and 6.0. His shooting accuracy has dipped slightly, Bryant making 42.3% of his shots in his last six games compared with 46.3% for the season.

But he made 14 of 27 shots and all 18 free throws Wednesday against Portland, looking spry while setting the record for most points by a visiting player at the Rose Garden.

"Honestly, I just work my … off in the summertime," said Bryant, 34. "There's no secret, there's no magic formula. I watch what I eat and I train my … off. I'm in the type of condition right now that a lot of my predecessors at this age probably couldn't be at."

Bryant is averaging a team-high 38.5 minutes a game this season; Dwight Howard is next, with 35.6 minutes of court time each game.

Bryant's output is something few contemporaries of any age could match. He scored 23 points in the fourth quarter Tuesday to help the Lakers pull out a victory over the New Orleans Hornets and then went all out against the Trail Blazers the following night, his points-by-quarter breakdown a steady 17-11-11-8.

"It was interesting to see how [Tuesday] he was not aggressive for three quarters and [Wednesday] he was aggressive for four quarters," Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. "What's the reason behind it? I don't know, but again it's interesting to me as a player and as a teammate what goes through his mind.

"He was in a go mode from the beginning and didn't rest a second. I hope he feels well for the next game."

The Lakers did not practice Thursday, giving Bryant a rare respite after playing 89 of a possible 96 minutes the previous two nights. He said he would be ready to play every second of the Lakers' final three games if needed.

"What he's doing is great," D'Antoni said. "Talking to him, he wants to play. He's out there and he's got it and it's hard to take him out, it really is."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

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