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Bryant sits out Suns game with injured left shin

- Associated Press - Saturday, April 7, 2012

PHOENIX (AP) - Kobe Bryant sat out the Los Angeles Lakers' game against the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night because of an injured left shin, ending his consecutive games streak at 138.

Lakers longtime trainer Gary Vitti said just before tipoff he decided to put Bryant's left foot in a protective boot to rest the injury.

"It's very painful," Vitti said. "He's been playing with this and it's not getting any better. Really the only way to stop it is to shut him down. That's why I put him in a boot."

The trainer said there is no timetable for Bryant's return.

Bryant, the NBA's leading scorer at 28.1 points per game, was limping noticeably in the late stages of the Lakers' home loss to Houston on Friday night. He was kicked in the shin last a week ago against New Orleans.

The injury is called tenosynovitis, inflammation of a sheath that surrounds a tendon. The boot will keep the sheath in place and allow the inflammation "to calm down," Vitti said.

Bryant was 8 for 20 from the field but made all 11 of his free throws to score 28 points against the Rockets. The soreness hasn't seemed to affect his scoring. In the four games since he was hurt, he has had 40, 24, 31 and 28 points in the last four games, the first three of them Lakers victories.

The 33-year-old perennial All-Star had played in all 56 games this season, averaging 38.4 minutes, fourth-most in the NBA. The Lakers entered Saturday's game with a 1 1/2-game lead over the Los Angeles Clippers in the Pacific Division. He played in all 82 games last season.

The game against the Suns was the first of a three-game road trip, with later stops at New Orleans on Monday and a critical showdown with San Antonio on Wednesday.

Bryant averaged 38.5 points in three games against Phoenix this season, two of them Los Angeles wins.

Vitti described the area that is injured as a sheath, such as the one that would hold a knife, with the tendon surrounded by it.

Bryant has had to adjust this season to the arrival of a new coach in Mike Brown following the retirement of Phil Jackson, who coached the Lakers to five NBA titles. Earlier this season, Bryant became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 29,000 points. He is fifth on the NBA's career scoring list, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain.

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