Win and in! Lakers fight for playoff lives against Houston
(Sports Network) - Playoff scenarios abound at the Staples Center Wednesday night when the Los Angeles Lakers, without star Kobe Bryant, host the Houston Rockets.
If the Lakers win on Wednesday, not only do they make the playoffs, they vault to the seventh seed. With the victory, the Lakers and Rockets would have the same record and the teams split the season series. The next tiebreaker is record against conference foes.
If the Lakers lose to the Rockets, and the Utah Jazz lose to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday, the Lakers still get into the postseason and will be the eighth seed.
If the Lakers lose and the Jazz defeat Memphis, Utah goes to the playoffs and the Lakers go to the golf course.
"We can't look at anybody else for help," Dwight Howard said after Sunday's victory over the San Antonio Spurs. "We got to go out there and get this game and we need everybody behind us pushing us and we're going to go out there and play as hard as we can and we believe that we can win."
The Lakers have won four straight and six of seven. The win on Sunday was the first since Bryant tore his left Achilles tendon in the fourth quarter of a Friday night victory over the Golden State Warriors.
Against the Spurs, Howard finally assumed the role of alpha male. He scored 26 points and pulled down 17 rebounds to go with three blocks. Steve Blake, who is starting for the still-injured Steve Nash, had 23 points thanks to 4-for-8 shooting from long distance.
Nash received an epidural shot and will be sidelined for Wednesday's game. The hope is he will be ready for the playoffs.
The Rockets can move to sixth in the Western Conference if they beat the Lakers and the Warriors fall on Wednesday in Portland to the Trail Blazers. If Houston bests L.A. and the Warriors beat Portland, Houston stays in seventh. If Houston loses to the Lakers, the Rockets fall to eighth.
"We just don't know right now. It could literally be anything," said Jeremy Lin.
Houston did itself no favors on Monday with a 119-112 setback in Phoenix to the Suns, who own the worst record in the Western Conference.
"This is a bad loss. We did this to ourselves and the frustration is all on us," said Chandler Parsons. "At the end of the day they're still an NBA team and this is their last home game - they're not going to go out easy. But we didn't come ready to play. We didn't play like something was on the line. This is one of those games you look back on and just get really frustrated about how we let it slip away."
Parsons led the Rockets with 24 points, followed by 23 from Carlos Delfino and 20 from Lin. Houston's leading scorer, James Harden, netted 16 points on 5- for-18 shooting.
The Rockets have won four of five against the Lakers, but L.A. is 5-1 in its last six against Houston in the Staples Center.