Whether it was his foot or his ankle, whether it was a slow first quarter, or a hot second quarter, whether it was Trevor Ariza guarding him, or Carl Landry helping out, it didn't matter.

Kobe Bryant would not be denied.

The idea that the Lakers would trail the Hornets 3-2 in the best-of-seven series would shock most NBA observers, but for Bryant it would be the reason that he would elevate his game. The Lakers were expected to sweep the series, so the fact that the Hornets had made a series out of this first-round match-up, made this an important game for the Lakers simply to save face.

Being in an elimination game on the road would have been shocking. It also would have raised doubts about the Lakers' chances of winning a third consecutive title.

Bryant scored 19 points on eight-of-13 shooting, and added four assists, two rebounds, and a steal.

Not bad for a night's work. Bryant played only 29 minutes, and with the Lakers up by a comfortable lead in the fourth quarter, he only logged about three minutes to end the game.

Bryant scored in many ways. Most notable of his eight field goals was a high-flying dunk in the second quarter that raised the roof off the Staples Center, and had TNT broadcasters Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller bewildered and amazed.

But the other shots from the Black Mamba were jump shots, and that's telling. With a bad ankle, Bryant was able to get lift to hit outside shots, and usually on athletic defender Ariza.

The Hornets may be favored on Thursday, but the Lakers can expect their star guard to continue his inspired play.