Kobe Bryant dribbled up the court left-handed and immediately fired in a 3-pointer. The next time the Lakers got the ball, Bryant did it again. At the end of the Lakers' bench, Robert Sacre stretched his arms up and out and howled to the heavens: "Mamba!" Bryant's shot-making despite an ulnar nerve contusion to his right elbow in the opening minutes Tuesday night gave the Lakers some brief bright spots. Bryant returned to the locker room for treatment on his elbow after he hurt it trying to break free from Thabo Sefolosha's defensive coverage and aggravated it shortly thereafter committing a foul. When he returned to the game, he passed up an open jump shot to drive and miss a left-handed shot. But Bryant worked through the problem and shot 5 of 9 from the field and 6 of 7 from the free-throw line to score 18 first-half points. His defense was not stellar, however. As halftime wound down, Bryant was still massaging above, below and right on his right elbow. He missed a long 3-pointer to start the second half but scored next time down with a back cut on which he caught the pass and made the layup in one motion with only his left hand. Bryant was dealing with a sprain to that elbow a month ago but recovered well enough to enjoy a torrid stretch of shooting the previous five games: 35 points per game on 57 percent field-goal shooting. Bryant similarly hurt his right elbow in December 2009 and played much of a game in Sacramento only using his left arm before eventually regaining feeling in his right arm and sinking two key 3-pointers (right-handed) in the second overtime of a Lakers victory. Lakers athletic trainer Gary Vitti reported to then-Lakers coach Phil Jackson during that game regarding Bryant's right arm: "If I tell you he can't play, he's gonna break my arm." The Lakers went on to their second consecutive NBA title that season. KEVIN DING