Kobe Bryant gets a helping hand from Dwight Howard after after landing awkwardly… (Curtis Compton / Associated…)
The Lakers climbed to a season-best four games over .500, finishing Week 20 with a 36-32 record.
Dwight Howard's return to Orlando for the first time since he was traded by the Magic to the Lakers was a hot topic of conversation. Of course that didn't stop Metta World Peace from trying to steal a little bit of thunder.
The Lakers defeated the Magic, 106-97, as Hack-a-Howard backfired when the center hit 25 of 39 free throws.
After the game, Time Warner Cable SportsNet aired a one-on-one interview with Howard -- who talked about the Lakers, his future and his past with the Orlando Magic. Howard admitted that he needs Kobe Bryant to keep pushing him.
The Lakers' four-game winning streak ended on Wednesday night in Atlanta, 96-92, despite a monster third quarter from Bryant.
The game ended controversially as Dahntay Jones stepped under Bryant as he landed after shooting a fadeaway -- causing the Lakers guard to severely sprain his ankle. Bryant took to Twitter to argue the play was dangerous (or even dirty).
The NBA agreed that the call was missed and that a foul should have been whistled, which would have given Bryant two free throws and a chance to tie the score. Of course, the NBA's assessment didn't do a lot of good after the fact.
In defeat, the Lakers lost ground to the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors.
Bryant was declared out indefinitely by the Lakers, but how long would that be? Naturally he tried to give it a go the very next game against the Indiana Pacers.
Bryant was able to play only 12 minutes in Indiana, but his teammates closed out a tight game (99-93) against the team with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.
Pacers guard George Hill was bothered by the volume of Lakers fans at an Indiana home game.
Given how Bryant couldn't get himself to sit out the game even with his injury, it's difficult to imagine him retiring while still playing well at age 35. (Bryant was named the Western Conference Player of the Week for Week 19).
With the Lakers winning in Indiana, the sixth-place Warriors lost at home to the Chicago Bulls, helping the Lakers make up a game in the standings.
As the Lakers continued to surge to playoff position, are they for real?
Pau Gasol started to progress toward a return from the foot injury (that kept him out since Feb. 5) until he felt soreness in his injured foot. The Lakers forward-center said a foot specialist indicated the soreness was expected as part of the recovery process.
Bryant was declared doubtful for Sunday, eventually sitting out as the Lakers took on the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center.
The Lakers still haven't won on back-to-back nights. They'll get the chance in Week 21 after defeating the Kings, 113-102, before their visit to the Phoenix Suns on Monday.
In other news, the Lakers let the Jordan Hill disabled player exception expire unused.
Fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers can't help but root for the Lakers. If the Lakers are in the lottery, their pick goes to the Phoenix Suns -- otherwise it goes to the Cavs from the Ramon Sessions trade.
The Miami Heat may threaten the Lakers' record 33-game winning streak. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban talked Bryant and league penalties on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno."
Finally, check out the transcript from Friday's live chat -- discussing the Lakers, Gasol, Bryant, the future of the team, why the team didn't pick up free agents, etc.
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