The Los Angeles Lakers went into Wednesday night with a “win or go home” attitude and came out with the seventh spot in the Western Conference playoffs. The Lakers had already clinched a playoff spot when they took the floor Wednesday and still came away with a huge 99-95 win in overtime against the Houston Rockets.
The Utah Jazz had a shot at the final playoff spot out West until they lost 86-70 to the Memphis Grizzlies just before the Lakers tipped-off. With a guaranteed playoff berth, the Lakers set their sights on seventh place, and Pau Gasol’s big night helped them jump the Rockets on the final day of the regular season.
Gasol finished with 17 points, 20 rebounds, and 11 assists for his seventh career triple-double as the Lakers rallied in the second half and put away the Rockets in overtime. Houston took a six-point lead into halftime but both teams struggled to find the basket in the second half.
The Lakers slowly cut away at the Rockets’ lead, which reached 11 points in the third quarter, until they took control late in the fourth. With 6:36 left in the final frame, Steve Blake hit a three-pointer that gave the Lakers their first lead of the game at 81-79.
The Lakers would hold tough over the final minutes as the Rockets shooting woes in the second half continued. The Rockets never fully recovered but had a shot to win it after Chandler Parsons forced overtime with a three-pointer at the buzzer.
Neither team scored within the first few minutes of overtime until Gasol hit a jumper with 2:26 remaining. The Lakers wouldn’t give back the lead and hit key free throws in the final minute to clinch the seventh spot out West.
Here are the highlights from the Lakers’ big win over the Rockets courtesy of NBA.com:
Outside of Gasol’s clutch performance, Steve Blake added 24 points, and Dwight Howard was a force with 16 points and 18 rebounds. Howard blocked James Harden’s drive through the lane with 20 seconds remaining in overtime that sealed the win for the Lakers.
Harden led all scorers with 30 points while Parsons added 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting. Jeremy Lin was the only other Rockets’ player in double-figures as he finished with 12 points and eight assists.
The Lakers will now face the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The Spurs won two-of-three meetings with the Lakers this season and have also signed Tracy McGrady to add some depth going in.
The Rockets will now have to face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round as Harden will be reunited with his old teammates once again. Houston lost their final two games of the regular season to fall out of seventh place and even had a chance at sixth before the Golden State Warriors beat the Portland Trailblazers.
The Lakers will be without superstar Kobe Bryant in the playoffs and may also miss Steve Nash for the first couple games after he missed the final eight games with a strained right hamstring.
Nash’s chance of playing is getting better by the day and the Lakers are optimistic that he will suit up on Sunday in game one against the Spurs. Jodie Meeks will have big shoes to fill as he replaces the injured Bryant in the starting five.
Can the Los Angeles Lakers upset the San Antonio Spurs in the first round without Kobe Bryant?
[Image via Keith Allison]