The Los Angeles Lakers could have used Kobe Bryant in their most recent game. Their next opponent needs even more help.
With Bryant likely out again, the visiting Lakers will try to remain atop the Pacific Division by beating the extremely short-handed Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night.
Los Angeles had won four in a row while the NBA's leading scorer nursed a bruised shin, but suffered its most lopsided defeat of the season Tuesday at Staples Center, falling 112-91 to San Antonio.
"The tempo was in their favor," coach Mike Brown said. "They sped us up, and we did not look like we had - nor did we try - to get control of the game. We got out of character a bit of the way we've been playing lately. You have to give the Spurs credit."
Andrew Bynum had a team-best 21 points in the loss and has averaged 23.3 since sitting out a win over New Jersey on April 3 with a sprained left ankle. He's also pulled down 15.0 rebounds per contest over the past six.
Bynum will next try to help the Lakers (39-23) maintain their half-game lead over the Los Angeles Clippers. They earned the tiebreaker over the Clippers by winning two of the three matchups.
"We're not worried about the Clippers. If they win, they win," Bynum said. "We need to do what we need to do, which is win games."
The Lakers have a prime chance to earn one during their visit to Golden State (22-38). The Warriors, losers in 17 of 21, are dealing with a bevy of injuries. Stephen Curry, Andrew Bogut, David Lee, Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson are among the players who were out during the team's fifth consecutive defeat, 120-99 to San Antonio on Monday.
Golden State became the first team in more than nine years to start four rookies in the loss. One of those, Klay Thompson, had 29 points, while Nate Robinson surpassed his season high for the second straight contest with 30.
Another of the rookies, center Mickell Gladness, was originally signed to a 10-day contract last month.
"It was unique," Thompson said. "We were trying to make the most of it."
Even when healthy, the Warriors have had plenty of trouble against the Lakers, dropping 15 of the last 16 meetings - including all three this season as Los Angeles has outrebounded Golden State by an average of 17.0.
Bryant scored 40 points in a 120-112 home victory April 1 and made a pair of key shots in the final 64 seconds while scoring 30 during a 104-101 win in Oakland five days earlier.
The Lakers star, who is listed as day to day, said he would be healthy enough to play if the postseason had begun. Coach Mike Brown, though, is focused on letting him heal.
Bryant played through a torn ligament in his right wrist at the beginning of this season and has dealt with several other nagging injuries.