For much of the final month of the season, the Spurs limped along. They were injured and exhausted, losing both games and the Western Conference lead.

Late Friday night, they found rejuvenation in one score at the bottom of the television crawl.

Los Angeles Lakers 99, Houston Rockets 95.

That outcome locked the second-seeded Spurs into a first-round date with the star-studded Lakers, beginning with Game 1 Sunday at the AT&T Center, guaranteed to shake them from their doldrums by sheer force of hype.

“With the playoff atmosphere, it’s easy to get it back, the motivation, the desire, the fire,” guard Manu Ginobili said. “It’s automatic. But of course, X’s and O’s have got to be good, too.”

The two championship-laden franchises took different paths to their 12th postseason meeting, and you couldn’t tell which was which based on records and seedings.

The Spurs are 58-24, but skid into the first round on a three-game losing streak, having dropped of eight of their past 13 games.

The 45-37 Lakers won 28 of their final 40 in a desperate push for the postseason, but now face the daunting prospect of navigating the West bracket without ringleader Kobe Bryant, who suffered a season-ending tear of his Achilles tendon in the third-to-last game.

“He’s their heart and soul,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “It would be like us losing Tim Duncan.”

Even heartless and soulless, the Lakers have the Spurs’ attention.