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Friday, Apr 12 2013 11:50 PM

Kobe Bryant goes down with apparent ruptured Achilles tendon

BY GREG BEACHAM AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant left the Lakers' game with Golden State Friday night with an apparent ruptured left Achilles' tendon. His season likely is over.

Los Angeles held on to beat Golden State in a game crucial to their playoff prospects.

Bryant scored 34 points while playing much of the second half in obvious pain with an injured left leg, eventually leaving with 3:06 to play in the Lakers' 118-116 win over the Warriors.

"I can't walk," Bryant said solemnly, leaning on crutches in the Lakers' locker room. "I tried to maybe put pressure on my heel, but there was nothing there."

Immediately after the game, the Lakers announced Bryant probably had a torn tendon. He will have an MRI exam Saturday and surgery could be next.

Bryant knows the injury is likely to end his season. He called it the most disappointing injury of his career "by far."

Bryant hyperextended his left knee early in the half, but didn't come out while the Lakers chased a victory they needed to stay one game ahead of Utah for the eighth playoff spot in the West.

It was later when Bryant said he hurt himself more seriously on a move he's made countless times in his career while driving to the hoop.

He got the ball on the perimeter, stuck out his leg and pushed off his left foot to drive past Harrison Barnes. Bryant didn't make it two steps before he fell to the court in obvious pain while Barnes was called for a foul.

Bryant stayed in the game long enough to hit his free throws before trainer Gary Vitti helped him to the locker room.

The fourth-leading scorer in NBA history has been ferociously competitive down the stretch of the Lakers' tumultuous season. While Pau Gasol and Steve Nash have missed long stretches of play with injuries, and while Dwight Howard struggled to get to full strength after last year's back surgery, Bryant played through a sprained ankle and countless minor woes.

"I hate it for Kobe," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I hate it for us. I hate it for L.A., but you have to close ranks. There's no going back now. ... He's just an unbelievable player with a heart, and it is unbelievable."

After playing all 48 minutes while scoring 47 points in Portland on Wednesday, Bryant pushed the Lakers relentlessly forward on one good leg against the playoff-bound Warriors. Golden State got 47 points from Stephen Curry in a dynamic performance, but Bryant led a 9-0 run by hitting consecutive 3-pointers to tie it at 107 with 3:47 left.

Moments later, his season likely ended.

Bryant said his teammates must "just continue to play. We've been dealing with injuries all year. I'll do what I can, watching film and preparing."

His teammates improbably did just fine without him, with Gasol and Howard getting huge baskets in the final minutes while the Warriors wilted.

Los Angeles (43-37) stayed one game ahead of Utah (42-38) for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference with two games to go. The Jazz hold the tiebreaker.

"He's the greatest competitor, and he's been that all season long, all through his career," said Gasol, who had 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in his sixth career triple-double. "He's been an example for us throughout all this. He showed character. He showed heart, and that's what we're going to need from now on."

Los Angeles began the day barely ahead of the Jazz for the eighth spot, but Utah has the tiebreaker and an easier schedule than the Lakers, who finish against three straight playoff teams. Los Angeles must finish a game ahead of the Jazz to make sure they won't miss the playoffs for just the second time in Bryant's 17 NBA seasons -- even if Bryant can't join them.

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