Odom and Butler step up in Bryant's absence

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Lakers won without Kobe Bryant, and it
might be quite a while before they'll get their next chance to win
with him.

Bryant sustained a severely sprained right ankle and had to be
helped off the court early in a 98-94 victory over LeBron James and
the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night.

"I'm guessing it might be weeks, it just doesn't feel like a
day-to-day thing," Bryant said afterward when asked how long he
thinks he'll be sidelined.

"It hurts, it hurts a lot," Bryant said. "It's the worst one
I've had -- I am in a lot of pain right now. I am just trying to
stay off of it right now."

On crutches with his ankle wrapped, Bryant said he felt
"crunching and instant throbbing" when he went down.

X-rays were negative, but Bryant will have an MRI on Friday.

Lamar Odom had 24 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, and
Caron Butler added 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers, who
won for the third time in four games.

James led Cleveland with 28 points, a season-high 13 rebounds
and nine assists to just miss his first career triple-double. Jeff
McInnis added 20 points and Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 13 points and 15
rebounds for the Cavaliers, who had their four-game winning streak

Bryant, the NBA's second-leading scorer with a 28.2-point
average, was injured when he landed on Ira Newble's right foot
while going for a rebound under the Cavaliers' basket with 5:39
left in the first quarter. Newble was called for a foul on the

"He went up for a the rebound and I kind of nudged him a little
bit by mistake and basically fell into him as my momentum was going
that way," Newble said. "I was trying to catch myself and he came
down on his ankle funny. It's just an accident."

Bryant immediately grabbed his ankle before teammate Brian Grant
and trainer Gary Vitti helped him off the court and into the
Staples Center tunnel, where Grant and injured Los Angeles forward
Devean George carried him into the locker room.

Bryant had two points and three assists before leaving with the
game tied at 15.

"There's no fracture, I'm happy about that," Bryant said.
"I'll just rest, guys will hold down the fort no doubt and I will
come back ready to play."

Bryant injured his right shoulder late in the first quarter of a
game against the Cavaliers last January at Staples Center when he
collided with former Cleveland guard Kedrick Brown, causing him to
miss six games.

James visited the Lakers' locker room at halftime to check on

"I just went in there to see how he was doing," James said.
"He told me that he was likely going to be out for a little bit,
but I hope he gets well soon. [He's] like an idol to me."

Eric Snow's 3-pointer -- his only points of the game -- gave the
Cavaliers an 87-86 lead with 2:41 to play. But a basket by Odom and
two free throws by Chucky Atkins put the Lakers on top 90-87 with
1:38 left.

Ilgauskas made a free throw to draw the Cavaliers within two
points, but Atkins and Butler made two foul shots each to put the
Lakers ahead 94-88 with 22.4 seconds remaining.

McInnis and James made 3-pointers to move the Cavaliers within
one point with 9.8 seconds to go. Butler made a foul shot before
James missed a 3-pointer that could have given Cleveland the lead.

"All the shots I took tonight felt pretty good -- especially
that one," James said.

Odom's two free throws with 1.8 seconds to play completed the

"We played without the best player in the league and still
won," Odom said. "We'll be waiting for him. This team has guys
who can play."

Butler said when Bryant was injured, his teammates simply
competed harder.

"You felt it -- guys just took the challenge," Butler said.
"The second he went down, everybody knew they had to take their
game up another notch."

Robert Traylor scored his first four points of the game during a
10-3 run that gave the Cavaliers a 67-61 lead. Atkins then got his
first seven during a 10-4 Los Angeles spurt to finish the third
quarter that tied the game 71-all.

After a basket by James gave Cleveland a 32-24 lead -- largest of
the game for either team -- the Lakers went on a 16-5 run to put
them ahead 40-37, and they led 49-47 at halftime.

Game notes
The Lakers are the only NBA team with a winning record that
hasn't had a three-game winning streak this season. They've won two
in a row seven times. Other teams who haven't won at least three
straight are Portland (15-19), New Jersey (12-23), Charlotte
(8-23), Atlanta (6-26) and New Orleans (4-30). ... The Lakers have
beaten the Cavaliers four straight times and have won 10 of the
last 11 games between the teams. ... Cavaliers rookie Luke Jackson
underwent surgery Thursday for a herniated disc in his back. He
will miss the rest of the season, but is expected to fully recover.
... McInnis went 111 minutes over four games without a turnover
before committing one with five minutes left before halftime.


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