After Kobe Bryant missed several key possessions in the final minutes of a close loss on Friday, the Los Angeles Lakers are hoping to avoid similar struggles.
Bryant plans to play through a quadriceps injury as the Lakers look to bounce back from their first loss in five games when they meet the Clippers on Sunday.
Bryant struggled from the field against Golden State on Friday, going 6-for-23. However, he managed to help keep Los Angeles (13-9) close until the final minutes. The score was tied at 103 when Bryant left the game with less than two minutes remaining after injuring his left quad.
Without its star in the lineup, Los Angeles fell behind. Bryant returned for one possession but couldn't help the Lakers salvage a victory as they lost 108-106 to snap a four-game win streak.
The defeat was a disappointment, but the loss of Bryant would be much more devastating for the young Lakers, who rely heavily on the two-time defending scoring champion. Bryant, among league leaders with 27.0 points per game, has led the team in scoring in 20 of 22 games this season.
Bryant's post-game comments regarding the injury didn't sound optimistic.
"It felt like a little tweak, and I tried to shake it off and stretch it out," he said. "As soon as I took off running, it felt like I was shot in the leg."
However, Bryant also insisted he'll be ready to play against the Clippers (9-13), who have had more than their share of injury problems.
Brand hasn't played because of offseason surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles' tendon, and Livingston is still recovering from major knee surgery last March. Sam Cassell has been sidelined nine games with a strained calf, and Tim Thomas left in the second quarter of Friday's game against Memphis with a sprained ankle.
The short-handed Clippers overcame all of those absences to beat Memphis 98-91. Chris Kaman had 23 points and 16 rebounds, Corey Maggette added 23 points and Los Angeles won for the third time in five games since a seven-game skid.
"Me and Chris are kind of like a one-two combo, and we have to try and keep it going," Maggette said. "We need everyone because injuries are really hurting this team."
Kaman notched his eighth straight double-double and 18th in 22 games this season. He's averaging 18.6 points and 13.8 rebounds, topping his previous career highs of 11.9 and 9.6, set in 2005-06.
The Clippers are the road team for Sunday's matchup, but they'll try to snap a five-game losing streak at Staples Center -- the home court they share with the Lakers, who are 8-4 there.
This is the first meeting between the Clippers and the Lakers this season. Bryant has averaged 38.9 points in his last 10 games against the Clippers, including 37.0 last season as the teams split four meetings.
Maggette averaged 30.5 points in the Clippers' two wins, compared to 17.5 in their two losses.