2011 NBA Playoffs, Lakers Vs. Hornets: Los Angeles Takes 3-2 Lead Back To New Orleans After Game 5 Win

The first quarter might not have gone exactly like he expected. When it ended, Kobe Bryant was sitting on the bench, his team down by nine and without a legitimate contribution from it's biggest star. At this point, things didn't look very good for Kobe Bryant's ankle, or the Lakers' chances later in the Playoffs.

The second quarter was a completely different story. Kobe came out with a renewed sense of purpose, a monster dunk over Emeka Okafor and a seemingly healthier ankle. The Lakers outscored the Hornets by 12 in that second quarter, and didn't look back on their way to a 106-90 win over the Hornets in Game 5. They now have a 3-2 lead as the series moves back to New Orleans on Thursday.

According to Bill Plashke of the Los Angeles Times, Kobe Bryant treated his miraculous recovery from the ankle strain with the same nonchalance that he had handled his diagnosis and rehab.

"It was a little stiff," Bryant said of the ankle. "But it loosened up."

Of course it did. Kobe doesn't get too much time off in between this game and the Lakers next game, so hopefully it stays loose for the next couple days. Our Lakers blog Silver Screen and Roll is ready to add this to Kobe's legend.

And of course, it's another chapter in the anthology of Kobe's greatness. I don't know that we're totally out of the woods yet with his sprained ankle. There could be swelling tomorrow, and there will certainly be pain for him to manage. But he was terrific tonight and demonstrated yet again that far more often than not, he can be trusted to make the right call when it comes to his availability and minutes.

The Hornets might have won a few more games in this series than people were expecting, but the Lakers still have an opportunity to seize some momentum before they advance to the second round. This convincing win in Game 5 was a pretty good start. An equally comfortable win in Game 6 would help quiet down all the naysayers and give the Lakers some serious confidence heading into Round 2.

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