'Whew!' Lakers Beat Spurs Without Kobe, One Win Away From Playoffs

'Whew!' Lakers Beat Spurs Without Kobe, One Win Away From Playoffs

(AP) Lakers win without Kobe, rallying past Spurs 91-86
AP Sports Writer
Dwight Howard had 26 points and 17 rebounds, and the Los Angeles Lakers staged a dramatic rally in the fourth quarter to win their first game since losing Kobe Bryant for the season, beating the San Antonio Spurs 91-86 Sunday night to stay in position for a playoff berth.

After the game, Kobe Bryant tweeted: “Whew!! Well done my dudes. Well done. UNO MAS #playoffs”

Steve Blake scored 23 points for the Lakers (44-37), who lead Utah (42-38) by 1 1/2 games for the eighth postseason spot in the Western Conference after their seventh win in eight games _ even with Bryant watching from home. Bryant limped off the Staples Center floor with a torn Achilles tendon Friday night.

Tim Duncan had 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Spurs, who have lost six straight road games. San Antonio (58-22) is likely to finish second in the West behind Oklahoma City (59-21), which holds the tiebreaker.

The Lakers all shared Bryant’s playmaking and defensive duties, working together imperfectly but effectively. Blake filled in for injured point guard Steve Nash and provided an unexpected scoring punch along with top reserve Antawn Jamison, who scored nine of his 15 points in the fourth quarter.

Los Angeles blew open a tied game with a 15-4 run midway through the fourth. Bryant’s starting replacement, Jodie Meeks, hit two 3-pointers during the rally, and Blake added three free throws in the final seconds.

Pau Gasol missed 12 of his first 13 shots before finishing with seven points and 16 rebounds.

The Jazz visit Minnesota on Monday before finishing the season against Memphis, while the Lakers have the next two days off before their finale at home against Houston.

Tony Parker scored just four points on 1-of-10 shooting while playing for just the fourth time in April, possibly slowed by his injured shin in the Spurs’ first game since waiving disenchanted forward Stephen Jackson. San Antonio is headed into another postseason as a top-two seed, but the Spurs have lost five of eight after failing to complete a season sweep of the Lakers.

Bryant had surgery Saturday to repair his completely torn tendon, and he’ll be largely immobile for the next few weeks. Before the game, Bryant tweeted his plan to watch the game on television and then call in at halftime with adjustments for his teammates, prompting coach Mike D’Antoni to joke that he’ll turn off his phone.

The Lakers’ biggest offensive surprise turned out to be their backup point guard.

Blake scored 14 points in the second quarter and hit four 3-pointers, fearlessly stepping up to create shots while Nash missed his seventh straight game with a right hamstring injury. The two-time MVP point guard still can’t sprint, but Los Angeles remains hopeful he’ll return for Wednesday’s season finale against the Rockets.

The Lakers missed their first six shots and committed nine turnovers in the first 14 minutes, clearly working to find new chemistry after Bryant controlled the ball for so much of the season. Howard immediately got the ball down low more often, and he responded with 10 points and five rebounds in the first quarter.

Blake kept the Lakers competitive in the second quarter, hitting six of his first seven shots and outscoring Parker 18-2 in the first half.

Gregg Popovich ordered his players to intentionally foul Howard repeatedly late in the third quarter, and the All-Star center went 4 for 10 at the line.

Breitbart Sports contributed to this report

NOTES: The Lakers signed G Andrew Goudelock in time for the second-year pro to be in uniform. Goudelock was Los Angeles’ second-round pick in 2011, and he showed enough scoring promise in 40 games of action last season to earn the nickname “Mini Mamba” from Lakers fans. He was waived in training camp last fall and spent this season with two NBA D-League teams. Goudelock would be eligible for the postseason if the Lakers make it. … San Antonio played its third straight game without F Boris Diaw, who had surgery Friday to remove a cyst on his lower back. He won’t be ready for the start of the playoffs. … Charlize Theron, Edward James Olmos and Andy Garcia watched near courtside.