Because of a kick to the shin when he last faced the New Orleans Hornets, Kobe Bryant might have to miss the rematch.
The superstar’s status is up in the air as the visiting Lakers try to continue their recent success against the Hornets and avoid matching their longest losing streak of the season Monday night.
Bryant tried to play through tenosynovitis – an inflammation in a sheath that surrounds one of the tendons in his left leg – but was a late scratch from a 125-105 defeat in Phoenix on Saturday. That ended his consecutive games streak at 138.
He suffered the injury on an inadvertent kick during an 88-85 home win over New Orleans on March 31, but hit a key 3-pointer with 20 seconds left and appeared in the next four games. The NBA’s leading scorer, though, was noticeably limping near the conclusion of a 112-107 home loss to Houston on Friday even though he had 28 points.
“He’s been playing with this and it’s not getting any better,” trainer Gary Vitti said. “Really the only way to stop it is to shut him down. That’s why I put him in a (protective) boot.”
Pau Gasol tried to make up for Bryant’s absence by scoring a season-high 30 points and grabbing 13 rebounds against Phoenix. Andrew Bynum contributed 23 points and 18 boards, but the Lakers (35-22) forced only three turnovers for the game and gave up a combined 75 points in the middle quarters.
“Whether Kobe is here or not, the way I look at it is we shoot (48.5) percent and score 105 points,” coach Mike Brown said. “Earlier in the year, if you tell me we could get to 105, 106 points in a game, at that percentage we win, I am going to Vegas and betting on that one. Our problems are defensive.”
The 125 points allowed were a season high and the third straight game in which Los Angeles has given up 108 or more. Those performances have the Lakers on the verge of their first three-game skid since Jan. 19-22.
A matchup with New Orleans, which is scoring 89.4 points per game, would seemingly be a good way to help end those defensive issues. However, the Hornets (15-41) are averaging 98.7 points since the return of Eric Gordon from right knee surgery.
Gordon, though, had only 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting in a 99-90 home win over Minnesota on Saturday, a day after his best performance in five games this season – 31 points in a 128-104 loss at San Antonio.
With his teammate struggling, Jason Smith stepped up with a career-high 26 points and 10 rebounds during the opener of a season-high, five-game homestand. Chris Kaman added 21 points and 10 boards as New Orleans bounced back from its most lopsided defeat of the season and recorded consecutive home wins for the first time.
“Coach (Monty Williams) got us riled up,” Smith said. “He got on us a lot because the way that we played in the San Antonio game was embarrassing to say the least.”
The Hornets now look to win back-to-back games for the first time since winning a season-high three straight Feb. 13-17.
New Orleans, though, has lost six straight and 12 of 14 to the Lakers. The Hornets led by 17 during the most recent home matchup March 14, but Los Angeles won 107-101 in overtime as Bryant scored 33.