Fighting for their playoff lives with Kobe Bryant on the shelf due to a torn Achilles, Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the San Antonio Spurs, 91-86, on Sunday night at the Staples Center. The victory puts the Lakers 1½ games ahead of the Utah Jazz for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
Howard had 26 points and 17 rebounds to lead Los Angeles, who also got 23 points from Steve Blake. Antawn Jamison poured in 15 points off the bench, with most of that damage coming in the fourth quarter. Jamison hit three straight 3-pointers early in the fourth to keep pace with several Spurs' baskets, and then it was two threes by Jodie Meeks which helped provide some separation.
The Lakers went up by as many as 11 in the fourth, but the Spurs were able to trim that deficit to four on multiple occasions in the final two minutes. San Antonio blew several opportunities to get even closer in the last minute, missing three straight 3-pointers.
The game remained close throughout the first three quarters, as neither team was able to get enough going offensively to pull away. The Lakers won despite shooting just 36.5 percent from the field, while they held the Spurs to 37.1-percent shooting. The hotly contested matchup was tied 43-43 at halftime and was also tied heading into the final frame.
Tim Duncan led San Antonio with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while Danny Green added 16 points. Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard struggled mightily all game long, with the duo combining to score just 12 points on 2-of-15 shooting.
With the loss, the Spurs are now one full game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the top seed in the West.
More from SB Nation: