They did it again, indelibly, as if to show the first time wasn't a fluke.
Two days after weathering a typically stormy game in Portland without Kobe Bryant (when it started) and Andrew Bynum (when it ended), the Lakers undercut a more refined San Antonio team Monday night.
They played again without their two starters, but it didn't matter, in case the raucously appreciative Staples Center crowd didn't demonstrate it with a series of ovations.
Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and Ron Artest took turns pushing and prodding the Lakers in a 101-89 victory over the Spurs, a testimony to their depth, 36 minutes of strong defense and a dose of hustle that isn't always associated with this team.
With a game left until the All-Star break, the Lakers might be on to something, gathering in the momentum they fumbled away after a defeat in Memphis, a near-loss at home against Charlotte and a humiliating home effort against a Denver team without Carmelo Anthony.
How's this for balanced scoring? Gasol had 21 points, Artest had 18, Odom had 16 and Derek Fisher had 13. Gasol also had 19 rebounds and eight assists, coming close to a triple-double.
Not to be buried was a solid effort by the Lakers reserves -- 13 points from Jordan Farmar and eight from Sasha Vujacic, all in the first half.
Then there was a defense that held the Spurs to 42.7% shooting, tightening down quickly after surrendering 34 first-quarter points. Richard Jefferson had nine points on two-for-nine shooting. George Hill was two for eight. Tim Duncan had 16 points and was eight for 17 from the field.
A win to remember? For sure.
"Give credit to some of the guys out there that played extra special tonight," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said.
It can never be overlooked when the Lakers win without Bryant, who watched the game from the locker room after receiving treatment for a sprained left ankle. An MRI exam earlier in the day confirmed a sprain.
"I can't push off of it," he said. "It's just as simple as that. I can't move."
The NBA doesn't like its players sitting out the All-Star game, but if Bryant doesn't play Wednesday at Utah, he probably has the option of sitting out Sunday's game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
If he continues to stay off the court, Bryant will pocket a total of 10 days' rest before the Lakers' first game after the break, next Tuesday against Golden State.
"I think if he feels like he can play [against Utah], he's going to play," Jackson said. "We talked about it before. If he felt like playing was going to be detrimental to his overall game or his athletic ability, he'd not play. That's a choice he'll make on Wednesday."
Bynum had already apparently made the choice, saying he would not play against Utah.
Neither Bryant nor Bynum was missed against San Antonio.
Gasol compensated for an off shooting night (eight for 20) with his strong all-around play, which also included five blocks.
Odom was steady, blowing by Duncan and beating DeJuan Blair for a dunk down the left side in the third quarter. Soon thereafter, fans offered a standing ovation, cognizant of what the team was doing.
On another possession, the Lakers had four offensive rebounds, keeping the ball alive with taps and tip-in tries before Artest finally hit a layup and converted a free throw after being fouled.
Later, Gasol found Odom underneath for a layup that gave the Lakers a 92-81 lead with 2:24 to play. Then came Fisher's three-point play with 1:47 left. The Spurs were done.
"That's something that we've talked about is them being able to step up and perform, and don't put any pressure on me to come back early," Bryant said.