The Los Angeles Lakers have played pretty well with Kobe Bryant on the sidelines.
The San Antonio Spurs know how good Los Angeles can be even without their 14-time All-Star.
Since falling 125-105 at Phoenix on April 7, the Pacific Division-leading Lakers (39-22) have won four in a row - including Wednesday's 98-84 victory at San Antonio (43-16).
Metta World Peace posted a season-high 26 points in that game while Andrew Bynum added 16 points and hauled down a career-high 30 rebounds.
"They played great and beat us to death," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "There's nothing else you can say about it."
Bynum also came up big during Sunday's 112-108 overtime win over Dallas, finishing with 23 points and 16 boards. Pau Gasol added 20 and 10, respectively, while Ramon Sessions scored 22.
While the NBA's leading scorer hasn't been able to suit up due to a bruised left shin, it's safe to say Bryant (28.1 points per game) has made his presence felt from the sidelines.
Bryant has been seen drawing up plays for his teammates during timeouts and encouraging them throughout the game. He is expected to miss his sixth straight game Tuesday night, with the Lakers trying to extend their winning streak to five games.
On the other hand, the Spurs posted their 17th win in 20 games and - combined with Oklahoma City's 92-77 loss to the Clippers - moved percentage points ahead of the Thunder for the top spot in the West with Monday's 120-99 rout at Golden State.
San Antonio shot just 39.1 percent from the field but outrebounded the Warriors 55-47. The Spurs are 24-3 when pulling down at least 44 rebounds.
The Spurs' Big 3 should be relatively fresh for the second game of their current back-to-back-to-back stretch, as Tim Duncan played just over 11 minutes Monday and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili both played less than 15 minutes.
"We understood the situation, we got the comfortable lead and Pop made the call," Duncan said. "It was the right call. Our main focus is to be healthy and have our legs."
"We're in the run for it. We're going to do our best to try to win the West but it's not going to break our hearts if we don't. We want to be healthy more than anything."
However, expect the Spurs to try to return the favor tonight, when they visit the Kobe-less Lakers at the Staples Center.
(Photo via ESPN/AP)