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An Achilles tendon injury ended Kobe Bryant's season Friday, also bringing an end to a remarkable stretch of games in which the former MVP was single-handedly willing his Los Angeles Lakers to a playoff berth.
What his absence means for the playoff race between the Lakers and the Utah Jazz, however, is in flux. It may be too late for the Jazz, who with two games remaining are one full game behind the Lakers for the eighth seed. Or, the injury could derail the Lakers in final games against San Antonio and Houston, allowing the Jazz to sneak in.
That an unforgiving injury to one of the game's greats may ultimately benefit a rival is the cold reality of sports.
The Jazz did not practice Saturday, following a 107-100 win over Minnesota on Friday, but multiple players took to Twitter to offer support for Bryant.
"Tough to see [Kobe Bryant] go down," point guard Jamaal Tinsley tweeted. "This season he reminded us all about sacrifice and doing whatever it takes to win. Get well soon [bro]."
Said Mo Williams: "Much respect for [Kobe Bryant]. Never want to see that happen to nobody especially in a race we have going on. [Shake my head] it's bigger than basketball."
Bryant scored 34 points in 44 minutes before being helped off the floor near the end of the Lakers' 118-116 win over Golden State on Friday. It was Bryant's seventh straight game of 40-plus minutes, a stretch in which he played at least 47 minutes four times. The Lakers announced through trainer Gary Vitti that Bryant will miss six to nine months.
Favors' flagrant foul
With 4:49 remaining in the Jazz's victory Friday, their eighth win in the past 10 games, Jazz forward Derrick Favors became tangled with Minnesota point guard J.J. Barea. Barea locked into Favors after the Timberwolves' Dante Cunningham secured a rebound and Favors freed himself by lifting his arm and, upon review, using his forearm to knock Barea to the ground.
"I don't think he did it on purpose," Barea said, "but it happens sometimes in basketball."
Favors received a flagrant foul and had to be separated by teammates from T-Wolves center Greg Stiemsma, at whom Favors also raised an elbow.
Asked after the game to describe the sequence, Favors drew a blank.
"I can't remember," he said. "I don't know what happened. I just know I got called for a flagrant foul."
It was the third-year forward's second flagrant foul of his career. Both have come this season.
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said he didn't see the play but that while "we're not a dirty group ... we can't take anything off anybody."