SAN ANTONIO — This was the game Lakers fans had been awaiting, hoping their team could turn into something special.
Shrug off a season of only mildly inspirational play. Win a big road game. Have someone grab 30 rebounds.
Thirty rebounds? Sure.
PHOTOS: Lakers vs. Spurs
Andrew Bynum became the first Laker to do it in 34 years, pushing and shoving the San Antonio Spurs out of the way as the Lakers stunned them without Kobe Bryant, 98-84, Wednesday at AT&T Center.
"They beat us to death," was how Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich described it, and you could suddenly sense the rest of the Western Conference slowly turning toward the Lakers.
In a little more than two hours, big-picture expectations of the Lakers rose meteorically. They led by 26 against a team that was drafting comfortably off Oklahoma City a game out of first in the West.
It made no sense. Bryant skipped a third consecutive game because of a sore left shin and the Spurs allegedly were rested after sitting Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in their previous game.
But Bynum was three rebounds short of the entire San Antonio team, becoming only the fifth player in Lakers history to hit the 30-rebound mark.
True to his nature, he cursed and said he didn't like the way he shot the ball when asked on live TV about his rebounding prowess immediately after the game.
He was still miffed at his seven-for-20 shooting effort half an hour later.
"It's great to have 30 boards, but my shot's not working and I'm kind of a little upset about that. For me, I'll remember me shooting poorly," said Bynum, who had 16 points and joined Wilt Chamberlain, George Mikan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Elgin Baylor in the Lakers' 30-rebound club.
Nobody had done it for the Lakers since Abdul-Jabbar took 30 in 1978 against Milwaukee. Bynum's total was the highest in the NBA this season.
He's not only tough on himself.
He snarled at teammate Devin Ebanks for almost taking a rebound from him. He blocked Kawhi Leonard's shot into the front row. He earned silence from the crowd after dunking an alley-oop pass from Ramon Sessions.
"He's only 24 years old," said Metta World Peace, who had a big game of his own. "I don't even know what else to say, you know? He's so young."
World Peace turned back the clock with 26 points in 40 minutes, his high in almost three seasons with the Lakers, making five of eight three-point attempts.
When he made a flat-footed three-pointer as the shot clock expired early in the fourth quarter, even Bryant couldn't hide his excitement, if not surprise, standing and smiling from the bench.
That wasn't all. World Peace stole the ball from Duncan and went coast to coast for a layup. He made another layup, drew a foul and slapped a referee on the behind.
He also scored on a 15-foot turnaround a bit before Ginobili dribbled the ball off his own knee and out of bounds.
Not to be forgotten, Pau Gasol had 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers.
In the meantime, Bryant took another step toward returning to the court when he was told Wednesday to stop wearing a walking boot and see how his shin reacted to being unrestrained.
He is still listed as day to day, with the Lakers' next game Friday at home against Denver.
"I think he understands that this is one of those things where if he goes out too early, then it can cancel everything that we did up until to this point," Lakers Coach Mike Brown said. "He's being more cautious than anything else."
The Lakers (37-22) lead the Clippers by 1½ games and Memphis by two games in the push for third place.
Bynum outrebounded the Spurs in the first half, 19-18, as the Lakers took a 48-43 lead.
It was just the beginning of his night. It might be the start of something even bigger for the Lakers.