LOS ANGELES -- It figured to be an emotional night in the first Los Angeles Lakers game since Kobe Bryant went out with that devastating season-ending Achilles tear. And L.A. used the charged atmosphere to its advantage.
Here's a look back at L.A.'s game No. 81 of the season and game No. 1 without Kobe, where the Lakers improved to 44-37, the most games above .500 they've been all season:
How it happened: L.A. controlled the game from the tip and withstood the Hack-a-Howard strategy by the San Antonio Spurs in the third quarter to pull ahead in the end, thanks to some timely fourth-quarter buckets by Antawn Jamison and made free throws by Dwight Howard and Steve Blake.
What it means: If the Utah Jazz lose either of their next two games -- at the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday or at the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday -- the Lakers are in the playoffs no matter what happens on Wednesday, when the Lakers host the Houston Rockets in their regular-season finale.
Hits: Howard might have shot just 4-for-11 on free throws in the third quarter, but he was lights out all game for the most part. He clearly wanted to step up in Bryant's absence and finished with 26 points and 17 rebounds, while shooting 9-for-15 from the floor.
Blake scored 23 points, topping the 20-point plateau for just the 17th time of his 10-year career.
Jamison scored nine of his 15 points in the fourth quarter.
Misses: Gasol shot just 3-for-17 from the floor -- but chipped in 16 rebounds.
Stat of the game: The Lakers shot just 31-for-85 from the field (36.5 percent) and still managed to win, holding San Antonio to 37.1 percent shooting overall.
Up next: One game left -- Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. against Houston. Oh boy.