At times, they were the gang that couldn't shoot straight, but even Kobe Bryant has had a few nights like that.

Yet the Lakers were straight shooters when it came to determination Sunday night, and two nights after they lost Bryant to his Achilles tendon injury, they took a huge step toward the postseason with a 91-86 victory over the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center.

"We know how to play basketball," center Dwight Howard said. "We understand Kobe's out. But we've all done some special things in our career. We can't hang our heads. We have to believe in each other and go out and play hard. I believe we can still win. There's no doubt in my mind."

Disjointed at times, maybe, but the purpose the Lakers displayed appeared more to prove that yes, indeed, they can still be a team to be reckoned with.

"The thing for us is knowing other guys have to step up and just play," forward Antawn Jamison said. "Guys have just got to go out there and play and know that we can't rely on him to bail us out of situations, especially offensively.

"We've got guys who have done it throughout their careers. Now their mind frame has to change to go into that mode as far as 'I've got to be aggressive offensively, look for my shots' instead of being really passive."

Guard Steve Blake took the cue from the outset, hitting four 3-pointers in the first half while scoring 18 of his 23 points.

Howard finished with 26 points, 17 rebounds and blocked three shots.