After missing almost all of last season due to injury, Kobe Bryant is headed back to the sidelines for what could be a significant amount of time.
That doesn’t bode well for a Los Angeles Lakers team mired in its longest skid of the season.
The Lakers will try to get by without Bryant on Friday night as they go for a third consecutive road win over the San Antonio Spurs, who look to bounce back from their most lopsided defeat of the season.
Los Angeles (12-31) has been limited to an average of 89.3 points during a six-game losing streak, and things aren’t about to get any easier with Bryant out indefinitely after tearing his right rotator cuff in the second half of Wednesday’s 96-80 loss at New Orleans. The Lakers wouldn’t speculate on Bryant’s status, but many rotator cuff injuries require surgery and several months of rehabilitation.
The news surely comes as an especially big blow for Bryant after appearing in just six games in 2013-14 due to a pair of serious leg injuries.
Bryant, who was voted to start his 17th All-Star game Thursday, is averaging team highs of 22.3 points and 5.6 assists to go along with 5.7 rebounds. He’s one of just four players averaging 20-5-5.
The 36-year-old Bryant sat out eight games over the last four weeks to rest, with Los Angeles going 2-6 – including 0-5 on the road – without its aging superstar. The Lakers have lost nine of 10 away from home, including five straight by an average of 13.8 points.
Los Angeles split this season’s first two meetings against the Spurs, with each team winning on the road. Nick Young scored a season-high 29 points and Bryant added 22 as the Lakers pulled out a 112-110 overtime win Dec. 12, their second consecutive victory at San Antonio after dropping their previous three visits. Los Angeles hasn’t put together three consecutive road wins in the series since a four-game run Jan. 29, 1997-Feb. 8, 1999.
The Spurs (27-17) return home for six straight at the AT&T Center after getting blown out 104-81 by Chicago on Thursday, their first loss in five games. Kawhi Leonard posted all of his team-leading 16 points in the first half as San Antonio’s starters were outscored 78-43.
The Spurs were limited to 37.0 percent shooting for their worst display since Dec. 3.
"We just played embarrassing basketball," coach Gregg Popovich said. "I want my money back."
Tony Parker finished with nine points, and he’s averaging 10.4 on 42.0 percent shooting over nine games since returning from a hamstring injury. San Antonio is 13-3 when Parker has at least 12 points.
The Spurs are averaging 106.1 points at home compared to 97.3 on the road. San Antonio has won 20 of its last 22 home games in the second of back-to-backs dating to 2011, including all four this season.
The Lakers are giving up an NBA-worst 108.2 points per game as the visiting team. They are 6-25 against fellow Western Conference foes.
Carlos Boozer is averaging just 6.6 points during Los Angeles’ last five games, down from his season mark of 12.2. On the other hand, Jordan Hill has been a rare bright spot with 15.1 points per game over the last nine.