Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Lakers 99, Rockets 95 (OT)
By Dave McMenamin
LOS ANGELES -- In what has seemed at times like a never-ending Los Angeles Lakers season, the last game of the regular season came down to the last minute of overtime.
The Memphis Grizzlies seemingly took most of the drama out of the night for the Los Angeles Lakers before their game had even tipped off against the Houston Rockets.
Memphis beat the Utah Jazz to assure the Lakers a playoff berth for the eighth straight season and 19th time in the past 20.
So, as disastrous as the Lakers' season has seemed, L.A. did make good on Kobe Bryant's playoff guarantee even with Bryant out for the rest of the season after Achilles tendon surgery and, even with a loss against Houston, L.A. would finish the season 28-12 over its final 40 games.
But there was still the business of who the Lakers' and Rockets' first-round opponents would be.
L.A. gets the Spurs, it turns out, after a 99-95 overtime win over the Rockets. So instead of having to face a 60-win Oklahoma City team that ousted L.A. from the playoffs last season, the Lakers get a Spurs team that is just 3-7 over its last 10 games heading into the playoffs, including a 91-86 loss to the Lakers last weekend.
How it happened: L.A. fell down 18-12 early, prompting coach Mike D'Antoni to call a timeout, which spurred a 9-0 run by the Lakers. The Rockets built their lead to 11 in the second half before the Lakers' new "big three" of Steve Blake (24 points after 23 points Sunday against San Antonio), Dwight Howard (16 points) and Pau Gasol (17 points and a bunch of other great stats), gave the team a three-point lead with less than a minute left in the fourth. That's when the ball found itself in the hands of the Rockets' Chandler Parsons, who hit a dead-away 3-pointer from 36 feet to tie the score at the regulation buzzer.
In overtime, Jodie Meeks atoned for his 1-for-9 start from the field by throwing down a momentum-changing baseline dunk, and tacking on a huge free throw to put L.A. up by four with 14.5 seconds left. James Harden cut it to two with two free throws, but Blake iced it with a final two freebies to end the game 8-for-8 from the line.
What it means: The Lakers are 2-0 without Bryant, and even though San Antonio is still a tough place to open the playoffs, there is no denying the momentum they will take with them into the postseason whether No. 24 is in the lineup or not.
Hits: Gasol finished with 17 points, 20 rebounds and 11 assists for his second triple-double in his last three games.
Blake's 47 points over his last two games are more than Steve Nash's highest two-game total this season (38, twice).
Misses: Nash missed his eighth straight game because of right hip, hamstring and lower-back pain. Nash revealed to ESPN's Chris Broussard during an in-game sideline interview that he received two epidurals this week to try to deal with the pain.
Stat of the game: L.A. held Houston, which had averaged 106.1 points coming into Wednesday, to just 95 points in 53 minutes of game time.
Up next: The Lakers will open up the postseason with Game 1 of its first-round series with the Spurs in San Antonio on Sunday.