After the Los Angeles Lakers clinched the final playoffs spot by virtue of a Utah Jazz loss, they sent a statement of intent. The Lakers won 99-95 in a thrilling overtime game, and Pau Gasol recorded only his seventh career triple-double but his second in the last three games.
Prior to the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets opening tip, the Utah Jazz had been ousted from the playoffs due to a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. The Lakers made the playoffs, phew. Wednesday night’s game, however, was still worth a great deal to the Lakers and the Rockets.
The loser of Wednesday’s game would face the Oklahoma City Thunder in a seven-game series that would shock the basketball world if it went six or more games. The San Antonio Spurs awaited the Lakers if they were able to manage a victory, and LA had defeated the Spurs only three days earlier. By nearly all accounts, facing the Spurs was a better proposition than facing the Thunder.
However, the Lakers lacked urgency and started the game shooting under 30 percent in the first quarter. That would improve in the second quarter, but the Rockets shot a respectable 46 percent in the first half. The Lakers would go on to shoot 33 percent through the intermission and trailed 50-44 at the break.
Howard and Gasol combined for 13 points and 14 rebounds in the first half. With Gasol only managing one first-half assist, the Lakers twin towers were far from dominant in the first 24 minutes.
For the remainder of the game, the combination of Howard and Gasol combined for 20 points and 24 rebounds. Also, Gasol recorded 10 assists in the second half and overtime period to finish with 17 points, 20 rebounds, and 11 assists.
With Steve Blake leading the team in scoring and Antawn Jamison scoring 16 points off the bench, the Lakers found the necessary points required to win the game. However, considering the Lakers held the top scoring team in the league to less than 100 points, the Lakers won Wednesday’s game on the defensive-end of the floor, and the Lakers' twin towers recorded six blocks in the game.
With the Lakers now paired with the San Antonio Spurs to open the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, a steady diet of defense, Howard, and Gasol appears to be the formula for these hobbled Lakers in this rather peculiar postseason.