Bryant Plays 40 Minutes That Feel Like 32

59977269One initially surprising number from the box score of Sunday night’s 99-92 Lakers win over Washington is Kobe Bryant’s minute total: 39:47.

After all, the Lakers were up by around 20 points for most of the game after Bryant scored 20 himself in the second quarter alone to give the Lakers a 59-33 lead at the half. Phil Jackson generally likes to give Bryant extra rest if possible, and while he pulled Kobe out for good with 4:02 remaining and L.A. up 16 points, No. 24 had played nearly 40 minutes.

After the game, however, Kobe explained that 40 minutes on the box score isn’t always exactly 40 minutes on his legs.

“It just depends on the game and situation,” he said. “Tonight I played almost 40 minutes, but they were easy 40 minutes. I didn’t really have to over exert myself. I pushed hard in the second quarter, did my job, extended the ball game and then just kind of coasted the rest of the way.”

In other words, 40 minutes against the 21-47 Washington Wizards at home generally isn’t going to feel like 40 minutes on the road in San Antonio might on Wednesday evening.

For the season, Bryant ranks eighth in the NBA in minutes played with 38.9 per game, two more than teammate Pau Gasol (36.8), and both expect to stay around their minute totals – particularly in the absence of Andrew Bynum – during L.A.’s 5-game road trip as the team tries to lock up home court advantage in the Western Conference.

Currently, the Lakers hold a 5-game lead over Denver (47-23) and a 5.5-game edge over Dallas (46-23) with 11 games to play.

And as Kobe intimated, don’t sweat his playing a few more minutes down the stretch if he has to. He can certainly take care of himself.