Lakers Claim Seventh Seed in Fantastic Fashion

Darius Soriano —  April 17, 2013

Eighty two games are in the books and the Lakers have claimed the 7th seed in the playoffs. When the team was 17-25, it looked like they’d never get to this point. But they closed the season on a 28-12 run (which is about a 57~58 win pace if over a full season) and got it done. It wasn’t always pretty and there were definitely more than a few moments of doubt, but they got into the playoffs and, in beating the Rockets 99-95 in overtime, avoided facing their worst possible match up in the first round. At this point in the year, I’ll definitely take it.

Some notes on the game:

  • Pau Gasol was fantastic. He notched his 2nd triple double in three games, scoring 17 points, grabbing 20 rebounds, and dishing out 11 assists. For most of the 2nd half, Gasol was the fulcrum of the Lakers’ offense, playing high-low with Dwight Howard and making the correct pass-shot read on nearly every possession. Defensively he more than held his own as well, sometimes having to guard Carlos Delfino on the perimeter and other times protecting the paint while guarding Greg Smith.
  • Dwight Howard was also a monster inside on both sides of the ball. Dwight didn’t have his best night shooting the ball (6-15 from the floor), but was still able to score 16 points and hit a couple of late game free throws that pushed a one point lead to three in the closing minutes of regulation. Where Dwight was at his best was on defense, however. In the 2nd half (and especially the 4th quarter and overtime), Dwight played at a DPOY level in shutting down the paint and in helping all over the floor. On one sequence, he had his shot blocked right underneath the basket but then sprinted full out back on D, recovered to the paint, and tipped away Jeremy Lin’s dribble under the basket to force a turnover. That type of effort was there so often as he made play after play on that end of the floor to keep the Lakers in the game. Be it a blocked shot, a forced miss by challenging without fouling, or simply cleaning the glass after a miss (he had 18 rebounds of his own), Dwight was amazing in this game.
  • For the 2nd straight game Steve Blake was a tremendous offensive weapon for the Lakers. His 24 points and 7 assists (with 7 rebounds too) were huge and really helped provide balance to an offense that needed an outside threat to counter a post heavy attack. Blake was fearless, aggressive, and most of all confident in every shot he took and in running the offense in general. He worked the elbows of the floor when coming off picks and moved into the gaps of the Rockets’ perimeter D to make himself available for kick-out and swing passes to set up his three point shot. When you add in his solid defense on Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverly, Blake was the third member of the Lakers’ Big 3 against Houston.
  • Pau, Dwight, and Blake combined for 45 rebounds. The Rockets as a team had 46. I’d say that was a pretty important stat in this game.
  • Jodie Meeks couldn’t hit a shot all night (2-10) and missed several wide open three pointers (1-7 from behind the arc), but his defense on James Harden down the stretch was very good. Meeks pressured Harden high on his dribble and threw in little quirks like shifting his stance and reaching in at the right moment to disrupt Harden’s attack. Harden wasn’t very effective down the stretch and while some of that was definitely related to the Rockets’ iso-heavy, stagnant attack, Meeks deserves credit for how well he played on that end. Meeks also had several big hustle plays (including saving a tipped pass from Blake to Pau that looked to be a sure turnover) and hit 4 big FT’s down the stretch (two that pushed the lead to three points and another that pushed the lead to 4 in the closing seconds). Meeks looked like the goat because of his shooting, but he did a lot of other good things in this game to help the Lakers win.
  • Chandler Parsons’ three pointer to force overtime looked like a Matt Kemp line drive to center field. How that frozen rope got over the rim is beyond me, but he hit it to force the extra period. A great shot out of a scramble play that could have deflated the Lakers. It was great to see them respond by winning in the overtime.
  • Down the stretch of the regulation and in overtime D’Antoni played Jamison at small forward in place of Ron and Clark. Jamison held his own on defense and was active on offense (cutting, tipping rebounds). I’m not sure how well that will work down the line, but it was a nice change up tonight that made a difference.
  • The Blake, Meeks, Jamison, Pau, and Dwight lineup played 16 minutes together. In those minutes the team had a defensive efficiency of 70.9. Again, a lot of that had to do with Dwight’s dominance (and Pau’s secondary rim protection), but the fact that Jamison could be part of that unit was great for the Lakers since he’s such a versatile offensive player for the team.
  • Speaking of that lineup, credit the coach for making a smart decision and then riding it out when it showed it would work. Normally Jamison would be eaten alive by a player the caliber of Parsons, but the Rockets’ offense went to Harden almost exclusively that Jamison was able to float on the weak side a lot without having to guard in isolation too often.
  • Props to Darius Morris. He played good defense throughout the game and hit his only two shots to score 5 points. Not huge numbers, but enough to justify him being on the floor to pester Harden and Lin as an on ball defender.

The Lakers will have a few days off to prepare for the playoffs, but tonight they should enjoy this win just like us fans. The regular season didn’t produce the type of results we all would have liked, but this team continued to fight and persevere to get to where they did. For that they, and we, should be proud.

Darius Soriano

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31 responses to Lakers Claim Seventh Seed in Fantastic Fashion

  1. Guess Kobe was right about that guarantee of his.

    Also, maybe we do have the right group of players to make a serious run; they just need more time together.

  2. Ecstatic to be in this position. With this injury filled nightmare of a season, the Lakers at a 7th seed is quite amazing. Spurs will/are a good team, esp if Manu is back. with their ability to play with anyone in their roster, they should be favored, and deservedly so.

    But this matchup is so much better than going against OKC in the first round. So I’ll take it.

    Pau was great tonight. And to have any chance, we’ll need him playing likethat for the playoffs. Kobe was on point tonight: can the talk of trading pau cease now.

  3. Who would have guessed the Lakers would hold the top scoring Rockets to 90 points in reg and only 5 in OT. Also that Lin and Harden would be 12 for 39 and the Lakers would win while shooting only 36%.

    Not the same team from a month ago. Props to Dwight, Blake and Pau. Have a punchers chance now against Spurs. It’s all gravy from here.

  4. 2 players dogged it sll season decide to pick it up in the stretch run now the team is “different”.

    Amazing

  5. the other Stephen April 18, 2013 at 1:15 am

    this is how i envision ken: http://i.imgur.com/o1gh43O.gif (coincidentally, the same guy who sits near courtside sporting the mamba, d-fence, and world peace signs). >:D

  6. i am happy because we’re going into the playoffs.
    at the same time, sad because Vino will not be playing for us. it just feels like incomplete, though it would have been devastating for me if we miss the playoffs. with our lineup, no injuries, we could be cruising to the west finals. however unexpected things happened and now we’re heading into the playoffs, without our best warrior.
    this is a glimpse of our future (for me) without Kobe with Howard anchoring this team. i will really miss Kobe when playoff starts Sunday. because playoffs is where Kobe really shines. this is his territory. and he knows the gravity of each game.

    anyways, t’was still a great season Lakers and we’re still in the fight.
    lets show them our will to climb this mountain.

  7. Now that we are in, we might as well go for gold. But just like the last few weeks: one step at a time. Let’s deal with Spurs first. Kobe carried us for years, it would be nice to bring him one at home and like Mike said, and for Dr. Buss up there. Go Lakers !!!

  8. Warren Wee Lim April 18, 2013 at 3:22 am

    I don’t want to sound too arrogant or assuming but I believe we have caught the Spurs at the absolute best time. Plagued with injury themselves, and coming off lots of losses to end the season. They might’ve planned for #2 but to their luck they’re facing us.

    I like our odds on this one. I actually think Game 1 is winnable and we’ll just take it from there.

    Call me crazy but where are those folks clamoring for Jim Buss’ head? He was right, if we make the playoffs, we will be hot. No one could have planned for this but considering everything, this has the makings of the best Laker season ever. Something also tells me that the 3/6 Matchup favors us if we do end up upsetting the Spurs due to the inexperience of Denver and Golden State.

  9. I don’t care if we get swept the 1st round. We made the playoffs. We made an unbelivable comeback this season considering our circumstances. I am good with that and anything else at this point would be a bonus. We know we can’t a title without Kobe, but I think we can give the Spurs a little scare even without Kobe. Thank god we did not get the Thunder or we would be going home in 4 lol.

  10. I believe we will see the LAKERS take the series in 6/7 games. Finally we will see Dwight Howard burst out like he did against Orlando!!

  11. What are the odds that the two most half empty curmudgeons anywhere would both be sports columnists for the LA Times? Off the charts to be sure. Today Plaschke beats Simers by a nose. His column this morning of faint praise for the Lakers is 50% acerbic and 100% joyless. Our guys have fought hard through adversity to make something out of a very poor hand and last night’s win was simply fantastic. The grit and determination they showed was admirable. Kobe’s offense is sorely missed but if we can continue to play defense like this we can do some damage in the playoffs. Looking forward to Sunday.

  12. Plaschke formula for a column: a) choose most obvious pithy point; b) beat it into a spiteful pulp; c) repeat.

  13. This was the Lakers’ most memorable season for me, and I’ve followed 30+ of them closely. The 2nd half run of 28-12, itself full of drama and injuries, showed that patience, health and playing time is needed to become a contender.

  14. i thought this game encapsulated the lakers season (the post-memphis jan stretch anyways)- not always pretty, but filled with determination. the kind you watch with one eye closed.

    the closing minutes are a disaster and i was puzzled as to why they went away from gasol during the FG-less stretch in the closing minutes vs HOU, but nonetheless, howard’s defense covers a lot of sins.

    i honestly believe the lakers are meeks-finds-his-stroke away from being dangerous. add in nash coming back at anywhere near full strength, and i think they can take the spurs to 7 games. you just have to hope blake does not mean-revert.

  15. If Plaschke’s columns were printed on toilet paper, I wouldn’t use that toilet paper out of respect for my own poop.

  16. I’m truly amazed Coach Kevin McHale did not employ the Hack-a-Howard defense. I know he’s catching heat in Houston this morning.

    I also find it problematic and very disturbing that it’s so difficult for Gasol, Howard & Kobe to be highly productive when on the court at the same time. It’s water under the bridge now because those three will never play another game together, but I find it hard to believe this team could not come up with an offense to take advantage of all their talents.

    Congrats to my Lakers. Nice gutty win, and now on to the Spurs. Lakers in six. And yes, going with my heart, not head.

  17. Kehntangibles- lol. so you like him that much huh?

  18. So so proud of this team. Way to step up. For Kobe, for Dr. Buss, for whoever. They look determined. I’ll offer a counter and say Spurs in 7 which would be a hell of an accomplishment without 24, but the potential is there for more. Cannot wait to see the Staples Center scene when Kob returns to the bench in game 3 or 4.

  19. Man, Ken and everyone else calling for MDA’s head must be SUPER angry today. Though to be fair, the firing of Mike Brown so early in the season suggests that we maybe don’t need to take this statement at face value and might just be kupchak wanting to protect the psyche of his current coach in reaction to the news about phil itching to get back to basketball.
    http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/story/_/id/9185291/mike-dantoni-return-los-angeles-lakers-coach-next-season-gm-mitch-kupchak-says

  20. Defense is only as good as the refs let them be. Those same plays earlier in the year would have Howard in foul trouble and Harden at the line.
    It’s as if the NBA kinda feels sorry for the Lakers right now or maybe because Kobe is out, idk.

  21. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I am proud of these guys. Lots of criticism can be thrown around, justifiably, but I actually don’t care at this moment. Right now all that matters to me is they made the playoffs and seem to have found an actual identity — something I thought was missing the entire season. Now if only MDA can decide on a relatively stable rotation with consistent minutes for that group, we may have something moving forward.

    I think the Blake, Meeks, Jamison, Gasol, Howard lineup plays well together, as Darius pointed out, and could do some real damage against the Spurs.

  22. I’m truly amazed Coach Kevin McHale did not employ the Hack-a-Howard defense.
    _____

    You’re not alone in your thoughts BCS. However, trust and believe, I’m also grateful that the Celtic Great didn’t employ the tactic. Mainly because, more than likely, it would have been detrimental to us locking up the 7th seed and a date with the Spurs. But also, such a strategy makes for a long, drawn out game that lacks excitement. Now of course, this is coming from a Hard-Body Lakers fan, whose team happened to walk away victorious. So I can imagine that you’re correct in your belief about the vitriol he’s possibly receiving in the city of Houston from the fans and media alike.

  23. Byron Scott fired today as Cavs coach. Always liked him but Cavs did appear to underperform this year. Also Sam Amico tweeted this: “Someone asked the other day and I’ll stand by it: Lakers and Spurs are going 7.” Booyah!

  24. Uncontested best win of the season. Among more emotional reasons why we should all be ecstatic, 7th seed favors us in more ways than just SAS being a better match up for us than OKC in the first round. If we are able to translate the last 40 games to our impending series against the Spurs and really make some playoff noise, a 2nd round series against injured Denver or downswinging Golden State is FAR more pleasing than a 2nd round match up against the Clippers or Memphis (assuming we would have even been able to beat OKC so early in the playoffs at all as 8th seed).

  25. There is reason why Lakers have the largest fan base in the world. They usually take the dramatic route over the usual easy way. But it was a great game to watch, ugly plays, a lot of grappling fouling…. But push comes to shove, our lakers prevailed. They are always worth the entertainment.

  26. great win by lakers. have to hand it to pau, d howard, blake and others for stepping up. Pau has not looked this good in 2/12 years (save the ’12 olympics).
    If he plays like this all the time, I can’t see how we can let him go or trade him.
    And you’ve got to congratulate the coaching staff for finally figuring it out – or letting the players figure it out on their own.
    I’m not sure how this makes jim buss look any better than the absolute neophyte he is, but getting into the playoffs, considering all the incredibly dumb mistakes and unlucky injuries this year, is a serious accomplishment.
    I am hardly a fan of d’antoni but I agree with kupchak’s announcement to say he’s around for next year.I would have loved to see Scott here. He’s a great coach and has gotten a bum rap.

    And thank you Houston for keeping McHale as your coach. It’s nice to see a Celtic completely blow it. The mistakes made down the stretch by him were inexcusable. I know McHale has had a difficult year, but…wow.

  27. Playoffs schedule:
    Game 1 – Sun April 21 L.A. Lakers at San Antonio 2:30PM 3:30PM ABC

    Game 2 – Wed April 24 L.A. Lakers at San Antonio 8:30PM 9:30PM TNT

    Game 3 – Fri April 26 San Antonio at L.A. Lakers 7:30PM 10:30PM ESPN

    Game 4 – Sun April 28 San Antonio at L.A. Lakers 4:00PM 7:00PM TNT

    Game 5 * Tue April 30 L.A. Lakers at San Antonio TBD TBD TBD

    Game 6 * Thu May 2 San Antonio at L.A. Lakers TBD TBD TBD

    Game 7 * Sat May 4 L.A. Lakers at San Antonio TBD TBD TNT

  28. Hack-a-Howard is not effective, and it surprises me that people still think it’s anything other than a desperation tactic.

    1. If Howard connects at his career rate, then the efficiency of those possessions is better than the Lakers’ average (although, granted, worse if he hits at this season’s rate). In a low-scoring game like last night, this effect is amplified.
    2. If you keep fouling him, he gets into a rhythm and starts hitting a higher percentage.
    3. The tactic changes the pace of the game in favor of the Lakers, completely eliminating one of their biggest weaknesses (transition defense).

    Can anyone point to a single game where Hack-a-Dwight has actually succeeded?

  29. Steve Blake shoots 6 for 20 on mostly wide open shots… It’s not a good game people. Reality.

    I’m even more angry Kobe went down now that the Lakers are matche up against the Spurs (a team they would have beaten with him).

  30. Aaron–In a game where no one was shooting very well, particularly from an efficiency standpoint (Pau 17 pts on 17 FGA’s, Metta, 12 on 11 shots, Howard, 16 on 15 shots, Meeks, 9 on 10 shots) Blake’s 24 on 20 shots plus seven (!) rebounds and seven (!) dimes and ONE turnover is a pretty good performance.

    And those were not “mostly wide open shots.” There were plenty of times where Blake got stuck with Kobe’s typical role of being thrown “Kobe grenades” by teammates and having to hoist up a late-shot-clock fall-away baseline jumper. His willingness to be aggressive made him a threat that helped open up things for other people.

    Basketball is an asymetrical game, where stats, without context, mean nothing. Reading one player’s line out of a box score doesn’t mean much. 6 for 20 on another night might have been mediocre. It wasn’t last night.

    Blizzard–I agree. For a team like HOU that thrives in the open court, and was making LAL suffer in transition, Hack a Howard was the last thing HOU was going to do. I never for a minute thought that McHale would do it.

  31. Why wasn’t D. Morris shooting the ball? Maybe because of that awful game he had against the Spurs but still no excuse for not shooting open jumpshots and a wide-open easy lay-up. Once he ended up shooting he made it look easy…. I mean 5pts is 5 pts but I feel he could’ve has more. His D was good and a lil OFF would be great to justify his minutes.