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Kobe Bryant walks on crutches to join Lakers bench, receives standing ovation

The Staple Center crowd needed something, anything, to cheer about as the Lakers were getting swept out of the playoffs by the Spurs on Sunday, and Kobe Bryant was happy to oblige.

Moments after Dwight Howard was ejected during the third quarter of Game 4, Bryant used crutches to join the team and take a seat behind the bench. It was the first time that Bryant had joined the Lakers during a game since suffering a season-ending Achilles injury earlier this month.

The crowd responded with a standing ovation and chants of "M-V-P" as Bryant settled into his seat and offered high-fives to fans. Bryant, who stopped posting Twitter messages during games against the Spurs because he did not want to be a distraction, did not conduct a post-game interview.

San Antonio defeated L.A. 103-82 and will advance to face the winner of Denver/Golden State in the Western Conference semifinals. The Warriors hold a 3-1 series lead.

An SI.com roundtable batted around the key questions facing the Lakers this offseason. Howard, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, told reporters after Game 4 that he will "step away for a couple weeks" before he begins thinking about his future plans.

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