INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The whole will-he-or-won't-he drama surrounding Kobe Bryant's playing status with that sprained left ankle of his ended up being pretty much a moot point.
Bryant played the entire first quarter, going 0-for-4 from the field with one turnover and two assists, with the Lakers trailing 19-16.
After watching the entire second quarter from the bench and seeing his team compete without him, Bryant called it a night at halftime, spending the rest of the game on the bench with an electric stimulation device strapped to his bum ankle.
For Bryant, he got to keep up his distinction of having played in all 67 games on the Lakers schedule this season and his round-the-clock rehab will surely have his ankle in a better place for the Lakers' next game Sunday than it would have been if he hadn't tried to play Friday.
For the Lakers, the three quarters Bryant didn't play defined the night.
It was about Dwight Howard shaking off early foul trouble and a rough shooting night to still put up 20 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and four blocks.
It was about Metta World Peace coming back to play in front of fan base that knew him as Ron Artest when he was at his worst and scoring 19 points to lead L.A. when the offense stalled.
It was about Steve Blake (18 points) and Antawn Jamison (17 points) barely missing off the bench, combining to shoot 11-for-18 overall and 9-for-14 from 3.
It was about Steve Nash putting up 15 points and nine assists against just two turnovers.
It was about Earl Clark hobbling on a bum right ankle of his own and contributing with eight points and six rebounds.
It was about a team finding a way to win when the odds were not in its favor.
How it happened: The Pacers built an early 11-point lead with Howard parked on the bench with fouls and Bryant being off the mark, but L.A. got all the way back in it, building an 11-point lead of its own in the second quarter. Indiana came out refocused in the third quarter and went on a 13-0 run, but the Lakers wouldn't go away and had the lead down to just one heading into the fourth. With the game tied at 87 with 1:30 to go in the fourth, Howard had one of his biggest plays as a Laker, getting an and-1 layup to go and converting the ensuing free throw to put L.A. up by three. If Howard put the nail in the coffin, Jamison poured dirt on the grave with a 3-pointer the next time down to double L.A.'s lead from three to six and seal the win.
What it means: The Lakers are back to three games over .500 at 35-32 and won one of those gut-check games that define what it is to be a tough-minded group. This one could pay off down the road.
Hits: The Lakers shot 13-for-26 as a team from 3, good for 50 percent.
Against the toughest defensive team in the league, L.A. had just 15 turnovers compared to 16 for Indy.
Misses: The time keeper in Indiana messed up just before halftime, starting the clock while the ball was still in Earl Clark's hands while he was getting ready to inbound the ball with 5.3 seconds left. Steve Nash ended making a jump shot at the foul line that was disallowed because it left his hands just after the buzzer. However, had the time been kept correctly, Nash would have had another 1.5 seconds to get the shot off.
By NBA rules, the Lakers weren't allowed to play the whole 5.3 seconds over again -- just the 1.5 seconds that went missing because of the clock mistake. L.A. tried a similar inbounds alley-oop from the sideline to a cutting Clark that worked when L.A. was in Detroit, but the Pacers broke it up. The officials had to check the replay once again to determine the Lakers had 0.9 seconds left on the clock. L.A. tried one more time to score before the half but could manage only to get it out to Howard for a long heave from 3 that missed.
Stat of the game: The Lakers were just 2-16 on the road against teams with winning records coming into Friday but were able to knock off the Pacers -- the No. 2 team in the East -- who had a 26-7 home record before the loss.
What's next: The Lakers come to the softest portion of their schedule that they'll face all year, at a time when they can use some easy games. Their next three games are over the course of seven days against three teams that are each hovering around 20 games under .500. It starts off Sunday at home against Sacramento, then Monday on the road in Phoenix followed by three days off before they get Washington at home Friday. Adding to the string of gimmes, the Lakers should get Pau Gasol back in the lineup sometime in the next three games. Time to build momentum.