Life without Kobe Bryant, Day 1, was nothing if not unpredictable.

And in a crazy, wonderful, astonishing way, actually quite beautiful.

On a night when Pau Gasol was the 7-foot invisible Spaniard, Steve Blake told him, "I've got your back."

Blake went on to have the performance of his career while standing on one of the biggest stages of his life.

In a game in which the Lakers hovered around 35 percent shooting all night and Gasol clanked 14 of 17 shots, they shook off their notoriously soft-defending ways to harass the San Antonio Spurs into 36.5 percent shooting.

And with their playoff hopes resting in the balance, they somehow, someway managed to band together without Bryant and miraculously beat the San Antonio Spurs 91-86 while sold-out Staples Center rocked as loudly as it has in years.

Imagine that.

With Bryant watching from home, they beat a Spurs team that will finish no worse than the second seed in the Western Conference. And in the process, inch one win closer - or a Utah Jazz loss - to the playoffs.

The Lakers finish the season Wednesday at home against the Houston Rockets.

Utah plays at Minnesota and at Memphis to finish its season.

Any combination of a Lakers win or a Jazz loss does the trick.

"We can't look at anybody else for help," said Howard, who looked more comfortable in his Lakers skin than he has all year, leading the way with 26 points and punishing the Spurs with 17 rebounds and three blocked shots.