kobe bryant

When Kobe Bryant couldn’t be the tough guy on the court Friday night, he resorted to being an MVP coach.

After hobbling around on a severely sprained left ankle for 12 minutes, Bryant retreated to the bench, where he spent the rest of the night contesting calls, waving teammates into the right spots and even drawing something up on a clipboard for Dwight Howard to see.

He wasn’t going to let up - or let his teammates down.

So on a night Bryant was held scoreless for only the 15th time in his 17-year NBA career, Howard finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds, and delivered a tiebreaking three-point play with 90 seconds left that sent the Los Angeles Lakers past Indiana, 99-93.

”It really just continued to swell and I couldn’t put any weight on it, so I called it a night,” Bryant said after getting more treatment on the sore ankle in the training room. ”I told them before the game, ‘I don’t know how much I have, but whatever I have, I’ll give you.”’ …

Metta World Peace finished with 19 points and seven rebounds, Steve Blake made five 3-pointers and finished with 18 points, and Antawn Jamison added 17 points with four 3s…

George Hill scored 27 points, Paul George had 20 points and Lance Stephenson finished with 12 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. But Indiana shot only 37.4 percent from the field and couldn’t make a serious run at Los Angeles after Howard’s big play, primarily because the defense couldn’t stop the Lakers from outside.

– Reported by Michael Marot of the Associated Press