Bryant just wasn't himself.
"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.'"
How did they do it? Teamwork.
In addition to the production from Howard and Peace, Steve Blake made five 3-pointers and finished with 18 points, and Antawn Jamison added 17 points with four 3s.
"We don't shoot much better than that," D'Antoni said when asked about going 13 of 26 from beyond the arc.
For the Central Division-leading Pacers (40-25), it was a blown opportunity.
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.
"We had too many breakdowns, we didn't follow the game plan," coach Frank Vogel said. "Guarding the 3-point line was probably the biggest of the mental breakdowns. We left shooters left and right, a variety of different ways. We didn't play a good basketball game."
It was a strange game and not just because of Bryant's absence.
The Lakers started the game by missing their first five shots. The Pacers opened the second quarter 0 for 6. Neither team topped the 30 percent shooting mark until the final 2½ minutes of the half.
George, the Pacers' All-Star, started 0 for 4, and Howard, another All-Star, was called for two personal fouls and a technical less than five minutes into the game. Even the officials found themselves making corrections, twice adding time to the clock in the final five seconds of the first half.
On the court, the play was ragged.
The Pacers took charge early, fell behind 39-28 in the second quarter and eventually closed to 46-41 at halftime. Indiana continued its charge early in the third, using a 15-4 spurt to take a 56-50 lead, and with Bryant out appeared headed toward another home win.
But Bryant provided the inspiration and motivation the Lakers needed to come back.
"Kobe said we've got to do whatever we can, that we had to trust each other," Howard said.
Notes: There was no immediate update about Bryant's availability for Sunday night's game against Sacramento. ... In the final 5.2 seconds of the first half, there were two replay reviews, a 20-second timeout, time added to the clock twice and no points. ... Earlier Friday, D'Antoni said forward Pau Gasol could return in the next few days. He hasn't played since early February after tearing the plantar fascia in his right foot.