From Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: Kobe Bryant was right about his guarantee. The Lakers made the playoffs. He didn’t need to be present to see it happen on the last day of the regular season. Then the Lakers one-upped him, turning their good start to Wednesday evening into a better one, the equivalent of improving their hand in Texas hold ‘em. The Lakers beat the Houston Rockets in overtime, 99-95, earned a first-round playoff series against San Antonio and managed to avoid top-seeded Oklahoma City, a horrible matchup for almost every Western Conference team, especially them. So the seventh-seeded Lakers (45-37) begin a best-of-seven series Sunday at No. 2-seeded San Antonio, the team they defeated last Sunday, 91-86, and played well against in two close losses this season (by two points in November and three in January).
From C.A. Clark, Silver Screen & Roll: In a season filled with turmoil, tumult and, sometimes, even terror, the Los Angeles Lakers have ended the toughest 82 game season in my memory with a slightly different kind of emotion: Hope. In defeating the Houston Rockets by the final score of 99-95, the Lakers ensured not only that their season will not end with game 82, but that they have the slightest of chances of actually doing something with all the games that come after. Such is the importance of playoff match-ups, and such is the nightmare that loomed if the Lakers could not forge past the 8th spot in the playoff race. Forge past it they have; the Lakers will start the playoffs Sunday as the 7th seed, matched up against an old friend and familiar foe, the San Antonio Spurs.
From Arash Markazi, ESPN LA: Last week, before the Lakers’ already nightmarish season seemingly veered completely of the tracks with Kobe Bryant’s ruptured Achilles tendon, Bryant was still confident that the Lakers wouldn’t just make the playoffs but that they could win a championship. As he sat in front of his locker following the media scrum he said, “Look at what the Kings did last year. They got into the playoffs as the eight seed and won the Stanley Cup. We’re trying to do the same thing.” Bryant attended a number of the Los Angeles Kings’ playoff games with his daughters during their magical and improbable run to the Stanley Cup last summer and didn’t understand why it couldn’t be duplicated on the basketball court this summer. “There’s no reason we can’t do it,” Bryant said. “Everything resets in the playoffs.”
From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: Bad news for those Lakers fans who have chosen to scapegoat coach Mike D’Antoni for the Lakers disappointing season: He’s going to be back next season. That’s not my opinion, that comes straight from Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, speaking to the Los Angeles Times. “Yeah, he’s back. I think he’s done a great job,” Kupchak told The Times. “There’s been no discussions otherwise. “He’s made adjustments. He’s been flexible. He’s evaluated how he coaches as the season’s progressed. He’s listened to the players. He’s very easy to work with and we think in particular since the meeting the day of the Memphis game, yeah.”
From Marc Spears, Yahoo Sports: Kobe Bryant won’t be joining the Los Angeles Lakers in the postseason, but there is growing optimism Steve Nash will be on the court as early as Sunday’s playoff opener against the San Antonio Spurs. A strained right hamstring and hip soreness forced Nash to miss the final eight games of the regular season, including Wednesday’s 99-95 overtime victory over the Houston Rockets. The win gave the Lakers the Western Conference’s No. 7 seed and a first-round matchup with their old rival, the Spurs. Nash said he had two epidural injections in his lower back on Tuesday, which has begun to alleviate his hamstring pain. The Lakers announced Tuesday an MRI exam confirmed Nash is dealing with “several preexisting issues related to his hip and back, which are causing nerve irritation and contributing to his hamstring pain and weakness.” Nash and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak both expressed optimism Nash would be able to play on Sunday.”It really depends on whether the two epidurals work,” Nash said. “If they kick in, I have a good chance to play.”