SAN ANTONIO -- Talk about a tall task.
What business did the Los Angeles Lakers have coming into San Antonio on the second night of a back-to-back, in the midst of a four-game losing streak and playing against a Spurs team that had won 10 in a row at home, and expecting to win?
Turns out, they didn't.
But on a night when the odds were stacked against them, the Lakers showed that the fight hasn't been beaten out of them just yet in this turbulent season. They might be a team going through some major struggles, but they were indeed a true team Wednesday.
More of that, and they soon could be a team that actually wins some games.
How it happened: The Lakers fell down by eight in the first quarter and chipped away. Then it was 11 in the second, and they chipped away again. Then all the way to 17 in the third, but they still kept at it. The Spurs had it back to a 16-point lead with 7:07 to go in the fourth before the Lakers staged a furious rally, getting it down to three with 2:56 remaining. After a series of missed opportunities, the Lakers trailed by three and had the ball with 10.4 seconds left with a chance to tie it. Kobe Bryant missed long, Earl Clark grabbed the rebound and missed short, and the Lakers lost yet again.
What it means: If the Lakers consistently play as hard as they did in the fourth quarter for 48 minutes when they get Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill back, they will actually have a shot at making the postseason. Then again, a loss is a loss, and the Lakers' hole only got deeper Wednesday. There's no time left in the season for moral victories.
Hits: Welcome to the rotation, Earl Clark. The fourth-year forward out of Louisville played the best game of his young career. He set personal bests in points (22) and rebounds (13) while being a factor on both ends of the court. It was just the second double-double of his career, and the 3-pointer he hit with 31.7 seconds left to cut the Spurs' lead to three was just the third 3 he has hit in the league. He should have a place moving forward, even when the top dogs return, if he brings that youth, athleticism and shooting ability.
The Lakers had three players score 20 points or more with Bryant (27 points) and Metta World Peace (23) joining Clark.
Misses: A night after the Lakers allowed the Houston Rockets to shoot 11-for-25 on 3-pointers, it got even worse against San Antonio, as the Spurs went 12-for-25 (48 percent) from distance.
Jodie Meeks played just six minutes and went 1-for-3 from the field for two points.
The Lakers have allowed their opponent to score 100 points or more in all five of their consecutive losses.
Stat of the night: Steve Nash (14 points, nine assists) went 2-for-2 from the foul line, inching him further past Mark Price for the best free throw percentage in league history at 2,946-of-3,259 (.90451). Nash surpassed Price (.90351) on Tuesday against Houston. Nash is now a perfect 15-for-15 on free throws this season.
What's next: They might not deserve it, considering they've lost five games in a row, but they certainly could use a day off, so the Lakers will take Thursday to reboot and get away for a bit before Friday's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Being a 15-20 team is hard enough. Being a 15-20 team that's missing three of its big men and having to face the Thunder next is even harder.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.