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Kobe Bryant injury has OKC Thunder, San Antonio Spurs licking their chops for possible first-round playoff matchup with Lakers

BY JOHN ROHDE, Staff Writer, jrohde@opubco.com Published: April 13, 2013

General manager Mitch Kupchak said Saturday although the Los Angeles Lakers have lost superstar Kobe Bryant, the team has not lost hope of advancing to the playoffs.

“(Friday) night's injury is certainly another setback and devastating in its own way,” Kupchak said, “but I've got complete confidence that this group can win the next two games and get into the playoffs.”

The Lakers indeed could win its last two regular-season games to advance as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, but their chances of survival in the postseason now seem nonexistent.

With victories at Staples Center on Sunday against San Antonio and on Wednesday against Houston, the Lakers will be riding a five-game winning streak and will have won eight of their last nine heading into the playoffs.

Awaiting them will be the West's No. 1 seed – either the Thunder (59-21) or San Antonio (58-21) – who will be licking its chops at the prospect of facing a Lakers squad missing arguably the greatest player in franchise history.

A hot Lakers team with a healthy Bryant added intrigue and perhaps a bit of uncertainty to a first-round matchup between No. 1 and No. 8, but a shaken and shorthanded Lakers team without Bryant isn't nearly as formidable.

Bryant averaged 45.7 minutes his last seven games. “I made a move that I make a million times and it just popped,” Bryant said of his Achilles after Friday's game, which the Lakers won 118-116 over visiting Golden State.

If the Lakers (43-37) and Utah (42-38) finish with same final record, the Jazz wins the tiebreaker and would be the No. 8 seed by virtue of winning its regular-season series against the Lakers 2-1.

Bryant on Saturday had surgery to repair the torn left Achilles tendon and his recovery will take 6-9 months.

“When something like this happens, everybody wants to know why and there's not always a reason why,” longtime Lakers trainer Gary Vitti said. “If you look at our season, it's been a nightmare.”

Vitti described Bryant's injury as a “complete rupture” and said Bryant would be immobilized up to a month or more after surgery. If he were to recover on the short end of the timetable, Bryant might be able to play at the start of the 2013-14 season.

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