Will Kobe Bryant's Ankle Sprain Impact LA Lakers' Playoff Chances?

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Will Kobe Bryant's Ankle Sprain  Impact LA Lakers' Playoff Chances?
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers fairy tale now rests on the vulnerable left ankle of superstar Kobe Bryant.

Can we expect anything less from this Los Angeles Lakers season?

The Lakers' dramatic shift into the postseason took another twist on Wednesday night when Bryant fell to the floor in pain after landing on the foot of Atlanta Hawks' Dahntay Jones.

But like all Bryant injuries, this one shouldn't affect the Lakers' postseason chances.

Bryant's clutching of his ankle first signaled a grave seriousness before purple-and-gold worry eased and Bryant limped off the court.

Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times reported the X-rays on Bryant's ankle were negative. The report was that it is a severely sprained ankle and he is out indefinitely.

We've seen this from Bryant before—plenty of times.

There is no doubt the injury is serious and it will be painful. But when has that stopped Bryant?

That narrative of playing through injury has remained his entire career. Bryant suffered an ankle sprain in Game 2 of the 2000 NBA Finals and only missed Game 3 before returning to form.

At least Dwight Howard says Bryant should play through injury (kidding, but how great would that be?)

Bryant has made a career of letting people know how hurt he is and being the hero by playing through it. It seems like just another of Bryant's "I'm hurt real bad, but oh, look at my 32 points" moments.

But if the injury ends up to be too serious even for the man with the league's greatest pain threshold?

Then that could spell minor trouble for the Lakers' postseason hopes.

If Kobe Bryant misses 2-4 weeks, do the Lakers make the postseason?

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The 34-year-old is averaging 27.4 points, 5.8 assists and 5.5 rebounds. He's the biggest reason the Lakers are back in the playoff picture, and if he misses significant time, the Lakers are at risk.

But if he's out less than two weeks, the Lakers will be just fine.

The Lakers' upcoming schedule helps.

After a tough road game at the Indiana Pacers on Friday, Los Angeles hosts the Sacramento Kings on Sunday, goes on the road to face the Phoenix Suns on Monday and then comes back home against the Washington Wizards on March 22.

That means Bryant would have almost two weeks to recover before playing an important game against the fellow playoff-contending Golden State Warriors on March 25.

The eighth-seed Lakers are currently 3.0 games back of the Warriors, 1.5 games behind the Houston Rockets and a half-game ahead of the ninth-seeded Utah Jazz.

The Jazz are sinking fast, and they don't seemed poised to turn it around. Settling for an eighth seed doesn't sound as appealing as challenging the Warriors and Rockets for a sixth seed, but it's still a postseason in Los Angeles.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

You also can't discount that power of Bryant's anger. When the superstar is upset, and carries extra incentive, he is capable of even greater feats.

Bryant targeted Jones and the dangers of that type of play, as he made clear through multiple mentions his postgame reaction (video here).

"The officials really need to protect shooters," Bryant said. "These defensive players can contest shots, but you can't walk underneath players. That's dangerous for the shooters."

Bryant added: "He Jalen Rose'd me," a reference to the 2000 Finals when Rose put his foot under Bryants landing.  " …You just can't go under these shooters, man. It's a dangerous play."

With Bryant's career ticking toward expiration, and postseason opportunities dwindling, it's safe to say Bryant won't allow this injury to keep him off the court.

But even if it does, for a limited time or near the end of the season, the Lakers' schedule paired with the flatlined Jazz will still allow Los Angeles into the postseason.

Bryant won't have to wait a year for his revenge.

Jimmy Spencer is an NBA Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter at @JimmySpencerNBA.

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