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Coach: Ailing Kobe Bryant overused

LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 40 points in the Los Angeles Lakers' 105-95 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, but the scoring outburst might have come at a cost.

Bryant said he was playing on one leg and told reporters in the locker room after the game that he felt like his right foot was "about to fall off" during the game.

Bryant missed a week's worth of practice and the final two preseason games while he recovered from a right foot injury that Bryant characterized as an ankle contusion that also irritated the tendon that runs along the bottom of his foot.

The 17-year veteran asked a locker room attendant to have longtime Lakers trainer Gary Vitti to get his walking boot ready for him so he could wear it when he left the arena.

Compounding things was the fact that Bryant played a game-high 43 minutes. Lakers coach Mike Brown admitted to overusing the 34-year-old Bryant.

"We need a win, obviously. I'm not trying to fool anybody here. We do need a win. You hope we could have gotten one tonight," Brown said. "That's part of why (Bryant) played the minutes that he played, which was too many."

The 113th 40-point game of Bryant's career boosted his average to 30.7 points per game on 61.4 percent shooting this season, but he is doing it while playing 38.7 minutes per game. He told reporters during the preseason that his target minute range for this season would be 32-34 minutes a night.

The Lakers are now 0-3, starting a season winless over their first three games for the first time since 1978-79. This winless start for the Lakers of course comes after they went 0-8 in the preseason.

This was hardly the vision the team had when it acquired Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in the offseason and committed to a payroll nearing $100 million, but a source with knowledge of the front office's thinking told ESPNLosAngeles.com late Friday night that the poor start hasn't changed the team's outlook.

"Still positive," the source said in a text message, pointing out that Nash was missing from the lineup with a contusion of his lower left leg and Howard was limited against the Clippers because of foul trouble.

Bryant, who told the Lakers' critics in L.A. to "shut up" at Thursday's practice, acknowledged -- somewhat facetiously -- that now the team was letting their losses get to them.

"We're hitting the panic button now," Bryant said in a somewhat obligatory manner after a reporter asked if the team was reaching for an imaginary knob. "That's what we're supposed to do. This is our job. We're not supposed to just kind of coast and just assume things are going to fix themselves. We got to push at it."

Bryant stuck to his guns overall, however, blaming the loss on correctable mistakes of too many turnovers (20 turnovers leading to 25 points for the Clippers), poor defensive rebounding (nine offensive rebounds by the Clippers leading to 20 points) and weak transition defense (21 fast break points allowed).

"It's particularly hard for me because I'm not the most patient individual in the world, but you have to be. You have to be," Bryant said, pointing out that the Chicago Bulls started 0-3 while struggling with the Triangle offense in Phil Jackson's second full season before going on to win the championship in 1990-91. "You have to stay persistent and you have to stay committed to what we're doing and just keep on trucking."

The Lakers came into Friday's game averaging 19.5 turnovers through their first two games, both of them losses. Making matters worse, their opponents scored an average of 22.5 points off the turnovers.

"It's been kind of the same song the last couple games," Brown said. "We get bogged down by turnovers. It's tough to see the 20 turnovers and the 25 points off the 20 turnovers."

Brown gave the team off Saturday after they played three games in the last four days. Players will report for treatment, however, which will surely include Bryant (right foot), Nash (left leg), Howard (back) and reserve forward Jordan Hill who played just nine minutes Friday after aggravating the herniated disk in his back after colliding with Ronny Turiaf and twisting his torso in the second quarter.

Their next game is home on Sunday against the Detroit Pistons.

"We'll be fine. We just got to continue to stay together when we get frustrated and it will start coming together for us. We just can't allow losses to affect us as a team," Howard said. "At the end of a storm there is always a rainbow, so we just got to stay focused, stay together and like I said, not allow this to affect our team chemistry. We can't start pointing fingers now. We just have to remember what our goal is. We've had three tough games, but we'll overcome this."

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.