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NBA Preview from The Sports Network



Friday, March 15th (All times Eastern)

Los Angeles Lakers (34-32) at Indiana Pacers (40-24), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Kobe Bryant doesn't get hurt often, but when it happens he's not a pleasant man.

Bryant is out indefinitely with an injured left ankle and is not expected to be in action Friday night against the Indiana Pacers in the finale of a three- game road trip.

The five-time NBA champion and 15-time All-Star had a chance to force overtime in Wednesday's 96-92 loss at Atlanta and his shot glanced off the rim. As Bryant came down from his shot, he landed on the foot of Hawks swingman Dahntay Jones and crumbled to the floor in pain. He left with 2.6 seconds remaining in the game and shared some words with a referee upon his exit.

"First and foremost I think officials really need to protect shooters," a disgruntled Bryant said. "These defensive players can test shots but can't walk under players. It's dangerous for the shooter."

Bryant was asked to compare this issue to ones in the past.

"He Jalen Rose'd me," Bryant said in reference to an incident during the 2000 NBA Finals that left him with a balky ankle.

X-rays taken Wednesday night were negative. Bryant, who added that he was trying to generate energy for the team in the third quarter, ended with 31 points and seven rebounds for Los Angeles, which had a four-game winning streak snapped. Bryant plans on rigorous treatment for the ankle and reiterated, as a stout defender himself, that players have to be more conscious of where they're at contesting a shooter.

Steve Blake and Stave Nash will most likely run the Lakers' backcourt Friday.

Metta World Peace tallied 20 points and eight rebounds in the loss, while Dwight Howard had 10 points and 16 boards. Atlanta won despite not having starters Josh Smith and Jeff Teague.

The Lakers are 12-21 as the visitor this season and could be in some trouble if Bryant has to miss some time. He's been the team's MVP all season and has scored 30-plus points eight times in the last 11 tries. Bryant, who's second in the NBA with 27.5 ppg, hasn't missed a game all season.

L.A. is just one half-game ahead of Utah for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference and 1 1/2 games behind the Houston Rockets. The team will return home for a matchup with Sacramento on Sunday, then is scheduled to play five of six on the road. Overall, the Lakers are in the midst of playing eight of 10 contests away from Staples Center.

Indiana is second in the Eastern Conference standings and will pose problems for the Lakers if Bryant is unable to play.

The Pacers rebounded from a loss to the sizzling Miami Heat with Wednesday's 107-91 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Roy Hibbert recorded a double- double with 27 points and 12 rebounds. and Paul George scored 17 points for the Pacers, who have won 14 of their last 19 games.

"When we play hard things are fun out there," said Hibbert. "Everybody's eating -- that's what we say when everybody's scoring and getting stops and stuff like that -- we relish that and we like to see our teammates succeed."

Pacers star forward Danny Granger missed his fourth consecutive game due to a chronic left knee condition. He is expected to miss at least a few more games before being re-evaluated to return. Granger has played five games this season -- all off the bench -- and is averaging 5.4 points and 1.8 rebounds.

Indiana has been tough to beat at home this season as evidenced by its 26-7 record at the Fieldhouse. The Pacers will open a two-game road trip against Philadelphia on Saturday and Cleveland on Monday.

The Pacers handed the Lakers a 79-77 setback on Nov. 27 this season as George Hill's go-ahead layup with 0.1 seconds remaining was the difference. Bryant, who finished with 40 points, tied the contest at 77-77 prior to Hill's layup for Los Angeles, which has lost three of the past four in this series.

These two teams have split the last 10 meetings at Indiana.

03/15 10:25:52 ET