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Posted at 11:12 AM ET, 03/01/2012

Kobe Bryant is the hero behind the mask as the Lakers roll


Kobe Bryant is a masked man, thanks to a broken nose suffered in the NBA All-Star Game. (Mark J. Terrill / AP)

Kobe Bryant didn’t look very comfortable in his new plastic mask, the one that protects the broken beak he was given by the Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade in the All-Star Game, on Wednesday night.

Although he constantly fiddled with the mask, he still had 31 points and eight assists in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 104-85 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“It just felt like it started sweating immediately inside,” Bryant, who’s been playing with a wrist injury, said (via the Los Angeles Times’ Mike Bresnahan). “It felt like I had a sauna on my face. ... I was drinking my own sweat. ... ”

Yuck. Bryant also suffered a concussion when he was fouled hard by Wade, but was cleared by a neurologist to play. “I'm fine. I have no headaches,” said Bryant, who wore a bandage on the back of his neck after the game. “Everything's just kind of in the neck.”

Bryant said there was a “constant throbbing” at the base of his neck, but snuffed any spark of a notion that there’ll be bad blood over the foul when the Heat play the Lakers at 3:30 EST on Sunday on national TV (ABC).

“He didn't mean to do it,” Bryant said. “It's something that happens. He's not that type of person. ... He's a nicer guy than I am, to be honest with you.”

And the mask? That probably isn’t going away. A reporter asked Bryant if, perhaps, he might now be the Masked Mamba.

“Okay,” Bryant said with a laugh, “I can roll with that.”

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By  |  11:12 AM ET, 03/01/2012

 
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