The Los Angeles Lakers are in a must win scenario in Wednesday's regular season finale game against the visiting Houston Rockets at 10:30 p.m. ET.
Los Angeles could know its postseason fate before they take the court Wednesday, as Utah begins its contest at Memphis 2 1/2 hours before the Lakers and Rockets tip off at Staples Center.
A Jazz loss would give Los Angeles a playoff berth no matter its result, but a Utah victory would force the Lakers (44-37) to knock off Houston to avoid missing the postseason for the first time since 2005.
Los Angeles has won four in a row, but Bryant is facing six-to-nine months of recovery time after having surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon suffered in Friday's 118-116 win over Golden State.
Dwight Howard had 26 points and 17 rebounds while Steve Blake scored a season-high 23 in Sunday's 91-86 home win over San Antonio -- Los Angeles' first-round opponent if it can win Wednesday.
"This is a great opportunity for myself and this team to show who we are," said Howard, averaging 23.6 points over his last five. "We've got to give it everything we've got. We're going to fight to the end and do our best. Despite whatever has happened this season, we've got a chance to win this next game, go into the playoffs and make history.
"With Kobe out, I understand that I have to do more and be more for this team. This is a great opportunity for me, and I believe I can do it."
The Lakers, though, may need a better offensive performance to avoid a third straight loss to Houston after shooting just 36.5 percent Sunday.
"We have players that won't give up, that won't quit," said Pau Gasol, who averaged 23.7 points over his previous three games before scoring seven on 3-of-17 shooting Sunday. "We've been through quite a bit this season, but we're still here, and we're going to continue to be here as long as we can."