Bryant finished with 35 points, eight rebounds and six assists, and Los Angeles reserves Sasha Vujacic, Vladimir Radmanovic and Maurice Evans made some clutch 3-pointers down the stretch to beat the Philadelphia 76ers 104-94 on Sunday night.
"Ankle injuries are just the worst," said Bryant, who speaks from experience. "They take the longest to heal -- and when they do, it takes a couple of weeks just to get your ankle underneath you again and cut the way you would normally cut.
"We have to see how Kwame feels before we know how serious it is. The first night of an ankle injury is always the most important because you really have to stay on top of it. I was just talking to him a little bit about some of the things I try to do to get the ankle healthy as quickly as possible. He'll just have to stay the course."
The Lakers were leading 56-48 early in the third quarter when Brown was helped to the dressing room. He blocked a layup by point guard Andre Miller, but turned his ankle landing on Miller's foot and was writhing in pain as the officials allowed play to continue for another 27 seconds before blowing a whistle. X-rays were inconclusive, and Brown will have further tests Monday.
A No. 1 pick in the 2001 NBA draft by the Washington Wizards, Brown is in his second season with the Lakers. He missed the first seven games of the current season because of a bruised rotator cuff and bursitis in his right shoulder. The team already was severely short-handed, with center Chris Mihm out for the season following ankle surgery and Lamar Odom sidelined indefinitely by a sprained knee.
"Obviously, we're going to be missing a huge punch inside, so guys will have to step up and meet that challenge and plug in that void," Bryant said. "Defensively is where Kwame really gives us a big charge, because he's so versatile and quick and can cover a lot of small players."
Reserve forward Kyle Korver had a season-high 29 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the 76ers, who have lost 19 of their last 23 games and 14 of 16 on the road. Andre Iguodala had 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists, while Miller added 13 points and eight assists in his fifth game since joining Philadelphia in the trade that sent four-time scoring champ Allen Iverson to Denver.
Chris Webber missed his second straight game and sixth in the last nine because of a bruised right foot. The 76ers are 1-11 this season without him in the lineup.
Vujacic's two 3-pointers a minute apart helped the Lakers build a 98-79 cushion with 6:22 left. Philadelphia cut it to 101-90 on Bobby Jones' layup on a goaltending call against Evans. But Evans hit at clutch 3-pointer at the other end to help quell the rally.
Coming off a triple-overtime loss at Charlotte, the Lakers led the Sixers 46-38 at halftime despite a particularly ugly stretch of the second quarter in which they went 5:33 between field goals and missed 10 consecutive shots.
The 76ers, who started out shooting 9-for-28 from the field, turned an eight-point deficit into a 34-33 lead as Miller's layup capped a 9-0 run with 2:54 left in the half. But Los Angeles responded with an 11-2 surge capped by Bryant's layup and 3-pointer, and the Lakers never trailed again.
"That's when great players come into effect -- when their team needs them," Iguodala said. "He made some tough shots and got it going. From there, the team followed his lead and they got the win."
The 76ers played on New Year's Eve for the fifth straight season. But it was the first time for the Lakers since Dec. 31, 1968. They have played on this date only four times since moving from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, and all four games were at home (3-1).
This was the last night the NBA's new microfiber composite basketball was in use. The Lakers were 20-11 with it and the Sixers were 8-22. The composite balls will continue to be used in the Development League so that the NBA can continue to evaluate and fine-tune them, according to Rudy Garciduenas, the Lakers' equipment manager.
"I'm really looking forward to getting the original ball back," Bryant said. "It's 10 times better because of the feel of it. Where it affected games is on the turnovers because you have the ball slipping through of guys' hands."
- The Lakers are the only team that hasn't played a game decided by three points or less.
- Phil Jackson is three victories away from becoming the ninth NBA coach with 900 or more regular-season wins.
- In the previous meeting, Bryant returned from a two-game suspension and had his best game ever against Philadelphia -- scoring 48 points and making all seven shots from 3-point range.