- Associated Press - Friday, March 15, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Lakers star Kobe Bryant is expected to start Friday night against Indiana just two nights after sustaining a severely sprained left ankle in Atlanta.

Before the game, Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said he wanted Bryant to warm up and see how he felt before making the decision. He also wanted Bryant to be cleared by the team’s medical staff.

Apparently, Bryant, who did a light workout earlier in the day, passed all the tests and will play. He has not missed a game since the 2009-10 season.

Asked during a pregame news conference whether his gut feeling was that Bryant would play, D'Antoni said, “Yeah.”

Bryant has had round-the-clock treatment since Wednesday night’s loss at Atlanta. He landed on the foot of Dahntay Jones in the closing seconds of that game.

It wasn’t a total surprise to the Lakers.

“He’s better, a lot better, so he’s got a chance we’ll see,” D'Antoni said before the decision was made. “He is 34 years old and has played 17 years in the NBA, so he has to know whether he can play or not. He’ll know, he’ll know.”

Bryant did not speak to reporters after the morning shootaround or before the game.

Instead, he spent his time getting treatment for what he had called the worst sprained ankle of his career.

The Lakers need Bryant to continue their surge toward the playoffs.

He is the NBA’s third-leading scorer at 27.5 points per game and has helped stabilize his team during a tumultuous season that has included the early firing of coach Mike Brown, a prolonged skid, All-Star center Dwight Howard’s struggles to fit in with his new team, and the death of owner Jerry Buss.

The Lakers (34-32) have won 17 of their past 24 games to move into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Utah (33-32) trails the Lakers by a half game entering Friday’s games.

Bryant’s list of accomplishments is extraordinary: five NBA titles, two Finals MVPs, one league MVP. He has played in the second most All-Star games (15) in league history and is No. 5 on the career scoring list.

But the most impressive part of the 34-year-old’s resume might be his durability. He hasn’t missed a game since the 2009-10 season and has missed only 148 games of a possible 1,227 during 17 NBA seasons.

So it’s no wonder the Lakers believed he would play.

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