Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson felt Kobe Bryant might have been tired after playing in back-to-back games this week. A day off and a return home could help rejuvenate the superstar guard.
Playing his first game at Staples Center in three weeks, Bryant will try to help the Lakers avoid back-to-back home losses for the first time in two seasons Friday night when they face the Philadelphia 76ers, who beat them in Los Angeles last season.
After missing the previous five games with a sprained left ankle, Bryant returned Tuesday and hit the winning 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds left in a 99-98 victory at Memphis. He finished with 32 points.
On Wednesday, though, Bryant missed 14 of 23 shots and scored 20 points in a 101-96 defeat at Dallas. He missed a potential tying 3 with 25 seconds remaining and shot 2 of 6 in the final period.
"I thought he got other guys involved," said Jackson, whose team owns a Western Conference-best 26-5 home record. "He was probably a little fatigued and tried to help the other guys get going."
Bryant has not played at home since a 126-113 victory over Denver on Feb. 5. Los Angeles (43-15) lost its most recent contest at Staples 87-86 to Boston last Thursday in falling to 4-1 without Bryant.
The Lakers have not dropped two in a row at home since a three-game slide from March 23-28, 2008.
After winning its previous three home matchups with Philadelphia (22-35) by an average of 22.3 points, Los Angeles fell 94-93 to the 76ers on March 17. Andre Iguodala hit the winning 3-pointer as time expired to cap a comeback from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit and snap the Lakers' seven-game home win streak.
Iguodala leads the 76ers with 17.3 points per game and averaged 21.3 in his last four. He had eight points in a 99-91 loss to the Lakers on Jan. 29.
Allen Iverson led Philadelphia with a season-high 23 points in that matchup to counter Bryant's 24, but the 76ers guard will miss his third straight game Friday to be with his ailing 4-year-old daughter.
While the Lakers won't have to worry about slowing down Iverson, they may have to do a better job on the boards. Los Angeles is among the league leaders with 44.7 rebounds per game, but had five fewer rebounds than its opponent in each of the last two games.
The Lakers outrebounded teams by an average of 9.5 in six games from Feb. 5-18.
"We definitely just got to get better," forward Ron Artest said Wednesday after grabbing four rebounds. "There's no pointing a finger at any calls or anything like that -- (rebounding is) where you could have control."
Forward Pau Gasol had 19 points and 10 boards Jan. 29, and led Los Angeles with 25 points in the 76ers' last road game against the Lakers. He has averaged 25.6 points and 11.4 rebounds in his last five games versus the 76ers.
Los Angeles has taken six of the last eight meetings.