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Masked Kobe leads Lakers' blowout of Timberwolves

Updated: 2012-03-02 17:09
( Agencies)
Masked Kobe leads Lakers' blowout of Timberwolves

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant adjusts his protective mask prior to the Lakers' NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Feb 29, 2012, in Los Angeles. [Photo/Agencies]

LOS ANGELES - Kobe Bryant could be excused for harboring a little grudge after Dwyane Wade broke his nose and gave him a concussion with a hard foul in the All-Star game, of all places.

Instead, Bryant professes nothing but love for his fellow US Olympian, even when the injuries required him to wear a sweaty protective mask in his first game back.

And if Bryant had any hidden frustration about the whole situation, he probably took it out on the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Bryant had 31 points, seven rebounds and eight assists while playing in that uncomfortable mask, and Los Angeles returned from the All-Star break with its 17th consecutive win over the Timberwolves since 2007, 104-85 on Wednesday night.

Bryant didn't miss a game after Wade fouled him awkwardly from behind, giving Kobe the first concussion of his athletic career. After getting late clearance from his neurologist, the NBA's leading scorer slipped on a Richard Hamilton-style mask that quickly turned into "a sauna on my face," but didn't slow him at all.

"It happens," Bryant said. "You just have to deal with it and try to heal up as quickly as you possibly can, and get back on the court."

Masked Kobe leads Lakers' blowout of Timberwolves

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers warms up wearing a guard to protect his broken nose before the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. Bryant finished with 31 points and eight assists as the Lakers routed Minnesota 104-85 [Photo/Agencies]

Although Wade and his Miami Heat visit Staples Center this weekend, Bryant is more interested in Friday's visit from the Sacramento Kings. He'll keep wearing the mask until his nose is less tender - but anybody expecting payback for Wade on Sunday is foolish, he insists.

"It was very simple: He didn't mean to do it," Bryant said. "He's not that kind of person. ... He's a nicer guy than I am, to be honest with you. He's just not the type of person who would do something like that (on purpose)."

Bryant has played through countless nagging injuries in the last few years as the prep-to-pro star hits his mid-30s. He's been playing with a torn ligament in his right wrist since the season began.

The foul left Bryant with headaches, nausea and neck pain on his way out of Orlando.

"A lot of pressure," Bryant said. "It just feels like constant throbbing at the base of my head and neck."

Lakers coach Mike Brown felt confident enough in Bryant's health to put him back in the game with the Lakers' other four starters in the closing minutes when Minnesota chiseled the lead below 20 points.

"Kobe is a special human being," Brown said. "I don't have answers for him. I don't know what he's made of. He's just different. His body reacts different."


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