LOS ANGELES (AP) — The injury-ridden Los Angeles Lakers already have spent so much time playing without Kobe Bryant, losing him again for an extended period won't take them in uncharted territory.
Xavier Henry, the fourth player to start at point guard this season for coach Mike D'Antoni, scored 21 points and the Lakers began another long stretch without their 15-time All-Star by beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 104-91 Friday night.
Bryant is expected to miss at least six weeks because of a fracture in his left knee, which occurred Tuesday night at Memphis when he fell to the court late in the third quarter of the Lakers' 96-92 win. The NBA's fourth all-time leading scorer finished that game, hitting a clutch 3-pointer to help seal the win. But an MRI on Thursday revealed the injury.
Bryant missed the first 19 games of the season while recovering from surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon, an injury that occurred on April 12 — with two games left before the playoffs.
"It just prepared us," Henry said. "I mean, we started without him, and right now unfortunately we're without him again. But we know we can play. We know we can win games, and we have the confidence that we have other people that can do the job."
The Lakers returned from a 2-2 road trip and ended a three-game home losing streak. Pau Gasol, the only player to start all 26 games for the Lakers, had 21 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists.
Reserve Nick Young scored 25 points, including a 4-point play that gave the Lakers a lead after Corey Brewer fouled him behind the arc with 2:37 left in the third quarter.
"We played to our strengths," Henry said. "I mean, me and Nick can attack them in different ways. Jodie Meeks can shoot it, and we've got a guy like Pau who's a really good playmaker."
Bryant, who last month signed a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension at age 35, made his return Dec. 8 and played just six games — all in 10 days. The 18-year veteran averaged over 32 minutes in the last three while shifting to point guard because of injuries to Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar.
The 39-year-old Nash, a two-time MVP who hasn't played since Nov. 10 because of back and hamstring issues, has played as many games as Bryant — and will remain sidelined at least four more weeks with nerve root irritation in his back. Blake missed his fifth game because of a torn ligament in his right elbow, and Farmar sat out his eighth due to a torn left hamstring.