by Marcel Mutoni@marcel_mutoni

The Los Angeles Lakers flew back home last night from New Orleans with more on their minds than the growing realization that they have absolutely no answers for Chris Paul, who helped even up the series at two games apiece, and added yet another scintillating chapter to his Hall of Fame resume.

The Lakers will need to win Game 5 with an injured Kobe Bryant, who twisted his left ankle late in the fourth quarter, and has an MRI scheduled today to determine the gravity of the injury.

Bryant, despite needing crutches to get from the arena to the team bus, insists that there’s no way he’s not suiting up on Tuesday night.

Via the OC Register and ESPN:

Kobe Bryant’s swollen left ankle and foot late Sunday night had him using crutches to get from the Lakers’ locker room to the team bus outside the arena after the Lakers’ loss. Bryant said, however, that he expects to play Game 5 of the Lakers-Hornets first-round series at Staples Center on Tuesday. He cited past injuries and said: “I’ve played through so many of them, it kind of becomes old hat for me.”

Bryant will likely have an MRI or X-ray exam Monday. He said he’ll take treatment on the foot and ankle throughout the team’s flight home late Sunday night. And about the game Tuesday night: “It’s going to take a lot to stop me from playing.”

Lakers spokesman John Black said the team would determine whether Bryant will need an MRI on Monday during the three and a half hour flight. “We’ll do treatment the whole flight, just make sure we stay on top of it,” Bryant said. Bryant said the pressurized cabin in the plane makes dealing with the swelling more difficult. “Maybe I should drive back,” Bryant joked.

It’s the same ankle Kobe hurt against Dallas last month, though he says this injury is different (more foot-related), and presumably not as bad. Just as he did then, Bryant is determined to play through the pain.

The courage is there, but will the shots be falling, and even more critically, can Kobe help the Lakers contain CP3 enough to win?

A ton of questions and drama as we head toward critical Game 5, friends.