Kobe still spectacular despite wrist injury

Kobe still spectacular despite wrist injury

Published Jan. 10, 2012 11:23 p.m. ET

LOS ANGELES — "If you open the guy up, you might
find out he's a machine or something."

That was coach Mike Brown describing the nearly indescribable, another
mind-boggling performance by Kobe Bryant.

The Western Conference Player of the Week scored an NBA season-high 48 points
on 18-of-31 shooting from the field to lead the Lakers to their seventh
straight win at Staples Center, 99-83 over Phoenix. 

Despite playing with a torn right wrist ligament which requires extensive
treatment prior to each game — "I get a (pain-killing) shot before every
game and after that, I just don't feel anything." — Bryant has averaged 36
points over his last five games to raise his season average to 29.5.

"He's the best player in the world," said Suns guard Steve Nash, who
had 13 points and eight assists. "You come to expect that type of
performance from him. He was phenomenal tonight."

It wasn't just Bryant setting the pace offensively for the Lakers (7-4). Pau
Gasol collected a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds, while Steve
Blake chipped in eight assists off the bench. Even seldom-used forward Luke
Walton, who replaced Troy Murphy in the rotation (Murphy was suffering from
gastroenteritis), came through with six points, eight rebounds (five offensive)
and three assists. It was the first time he showed up in any of those
categories since Dec. 26 in Sacramento.

"He played hard and rebounded well," Brown said of Walton. "And
he was excellent defensively when they tried to back him down into the post. He
passed the ball well and did a lot of things that might not show up in the (box
score).  It was good to see him step up and produce the way he did."

As the game went on, however, it was Bryant who assumed his role as the NBA’s best
closer (and a pretty good defender as well).  With 6 minutes, 14 seconds
to play in the game, Channing Frye (17 points) hit a 3-pointer to give the Suns
(4-5) an 83-82 lead. Bryant then scored 14 of his team's final 16 points to
turn a close game into a rout. And according to Kobe, there's no team he'd
rather devastate than the Suns.

"The other day I said I hate them," he recalled, "and nothing
has changed. I do not like them. It's that simple — I do not like them.

"They used to whoop us pretty good and they let us know about it, and I
will not forget that. I don't care (that most of the players from those Phoenix
teams are gone). I won't let it go. I don't get to see them during the summer
(so I can let them know how I feel about them). But when my career is said and
done, I'll make sure to run my mouth to them about it."

Bryant was also a bit irked when he was told that some of the Suns players were
questioning the severity of his wrist injury.

"Yeah? Really?" he said. "Well, everybody's not built the same
way. That sh** hurts. But I just play. Because at the heart of it is a kid who
just loves the game of basketball.

"I just enjoy playing."

He might enjoy it even more if the Lakers were able to silence their critics by
winning a game on the road. They'll get another chance Wednesday night in Utah,
a team they crushed by 25 on Dec. 27 at Staples Center.

"Well," Bryant said laughing, "we are going to eventually win
one (away from home), so we might as well get it done (against the Jazz). It's
going to be a tough game and we just have to go and play."

And about reflecting on Tuesday night’s monster?

"I don't have time to admire what I've done," said the future Hall of
Famer. "I (always get) ready for the next (game). I start looking forward
to it right away."