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Kobe Bryant's back injury exacerbates problems in 105-85 loss to San Antonio Spurs

January 12, 2010 |  9:26 pm

Throughout the game tonight, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was either in the locker room getting treatment for back spasms or on the court trying to fight through his injury.

This time, Bryant's injury was too much to overcome and he missed the entire fourth quarter in what became a 105-85 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Though Bryant told reporters he's "pretty sure" he'll play in Wednesday's game against the Dallas Mavericks, the exact nature of his back injury isn't exactly definitive.

Unfortunately for the Lakers (28-9), who have lost four in a row on the road, and three out of four overall, there is much uncertainty beyond the seriousness of Bryant's injury.

Lakers forward Pau Gasol missed his fifth consecutive game because of a left hamstring injury. Coach Phil Jackson told reporters before the game it's possible Gasol could return Friday for the game against the Clippers and that it would be "up to him" whether he'd play against Dallas. Additionally, Lakers forward Ron Artest had issues with his right index finger, as did backup guard Sasha Vujacic with his right hamstring. Both are deemed to be day-to-day.

Say what you will about Luke Walton (many of you already have), but he played tonight in place of Adam Morrison, who Jackson told reporters had flu-like symptoms. The high volume of injuries may not sideline everyone Wednesday, let alone on a long-term basis. But from a pure numbers standpoint, the timing Walton's after suffering a pinched nerver in his back couldn't have been better.

Nonetheless, it is Bryant's back that is most worrisome. He had entered tonight's contest going 28 of 88 from the field in the past three games because of an aggravated right index finger. But he entered tonight's game wearing his splint again that he thought would provide the extra strength and push to prevent shots from falling short, even if the splint decreased his flexibility and touch. The result: 16 points on seven-of -10 shooting.

His stat line probably would have been higher were he not limited to 32 minutes. After Bryant made a basket over Spurs guard Manu Ginobili late in the first quarter, Mamba grabbed his back and limped down the court. After the Lakers called timeout with a 19-17 lead with 3:04 left in the first quarter, Bryant went straight to the locker room.

Even though Bryant returned for the second quarter, he moved visibly slower and looked physically hobbled. After taking zero shots in the third quarter, Bryant left for the locker room for good not long before the period ended.   

The Lakers won't have to wait long before finding out whether Bryant's absence in the fourth quarter is just the beginning.

--Mark Medina

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