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Lakers set for showdown with Spurs

The Los Angeles Lakers are expected to be without All-Star Kobe Bryant for a sixth straight game tonight versus the San Antonio Spurs, and they haven't missed a beat with his absence in the lineup.

Bryant is nursing a sore left shin and the Lakers are 4-1 without him, having won their last four contests. The Lakers will close out a three-game homestand Tuesday and are coming off Sunday's 112-108 overtime win versus the defending champion Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center.

Andrew Bynum, the NBA's Player of the Week for the Western Conference, had 23 points and 16 rebounds, while Ramon Sessions added 22 points and five assists to help Los Angeles to its eighth win in 10 tries. Pau Gasol netted 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for the Lakers, who swept the season series against Dallas after falling in four games to the Mavericks in last year's Western Conference semifinals. Metta World Peace had 18 points, six boards and four assists in the win.

"Our guys did a lot of good things, our guys stayed composed and no one panicked. Different guys stepped up offensively and made big shots. Bynum was a monster in the paint for us," Lakers head coach Mike Brown said.

The Lakers are one game ahead of the rival Clippers for the Pacific Division lead and the third seed in the conference with five games to go. LA is 25-6 as the host and will play three of four games on the road to close out the regular season. Tonight's game for the Lakers is the first of back-to-back tests, as they will visit Golden State tomorrow.

San Antonio opened a grueling back-to-back-to-back set with last night's 120-99 pounding of the Warriors in the opener of a three-game road trip.

Gary Neal led six Spurs in double-digit scoring with 17 points and Tiago Splitter netted 15. Tim Duncan had 13 points, Manu Ginobili scored 12, Danny Green added 11 and DeJuan Blair recorded 10 points for San Antonio, which moved percentage points (.729-.721) ahead of Oklahoma City for the top spot in the Western Conference with seven to play. The Thunder lost to the Clippers on the road last night and are idle Tuesday.

"Trying to win is part of it, trying to stay healthy is part of it," said San Antonio head coach Greg Popovich, who rested most of his starters in the second half. "That's got to be our main concern, not positioning."

Tony Parker had eight points and five assists for the Spurs, winners in three straight and 14 of 16 games. The Southwest Division champs also registered their 14th consecutive victory over Golden State and pushed their road mark to 18-11 this season. San Antonio will wrap up its three road games in as many nights Wednesday against the Sacramento Kings.

The Spurs lost the first meeting with the Lakers on April 11 by a 98-84 score in the Alamo City and are winless in the past three matchups between the teams. San Antonio has dropped five of seven and six of its last nine contests at the Lakers.

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