THE FACTS: The Lakers didn't come all the way back from the abyss, but they clawed out of one of the deepest holes they've experienced as a franchise and then took another step up the rung Wednesday night against the visiting Rockets. After learning before the game they had slipped into the playoffs thanks to the Grizzlies' win over the Jazz, the Lakers did themselves one better Wednesday night against the Rockets, coming from behind in the fourth quarter and winning 99-95 in overtime to overtake Houston for the No. 7 seed in the West.
QUOTABLE: "From where we were 20-30 games ago, the No. 7 seed is pretty good. ... We should have been in that spot in the first place, it's our fault."
-- Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni
THE STAT: Lakers forward Pau Gasol spent most of this season either injured or maligned for his lack of athleticism by D'Antoni. But he's one of the most popular guys in the locker room after posting his second triple-double in the last three games, finishing with 17 points, 20 rebounds and 11 assists in 43 minutes. He's the first member of the Lakers since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1978 to finish with at least 15 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists in a game.
TURNING POINT: Rockets sharpshooter Chandler Parsons made a miraculous 3-pointer to tie the score at the end of the regulation, but that didn't deter the Lakers. They had gone more than eight minutes without a field goal when Gasol made a basket with 2:26 left in overtime to give the Lakers a 92-91 lead. The Rockets pulled back within one on James Harden's drive with 1:10 left in overtime, but Jodie Meeks did a move that hadn't been seen all season, driving baseline and finishing with a two-handed dunk to push the lead back to three. Lakers center Dwight Howard contested Harden's drive on the next possession and forced a turnover, and Meeks then made one of two free throws on the other end to push the advantage to four. Harden made two free throws with 11.3 seconds to get back within two, but Steve Blake sealed it with two free throws of his own a second later.
HOT: The Lakers won eight of their final nine games to get into the postseason, including a 2-0 mark since Kobe Bryant went down with a season-ending torn Achilles' tendon and 7-1 while point guard Steve Nash has been sidelined with hip and hamstring injuries. The last three wins were against the playoff-bound Rockets, Spurs and Warriors. Individually, Blake scored a team-high 22 points, giving him 45 in the last two games, the highest two-game total in his 10-year career. He scored 18 in the first half of Sunday's win against San Antonio and 15 in the first half against Houston. Parsons came up huge for the Rockets, scoring 22 points on 10-for-17 shooting, none bigger than the line-drive 34-footer he made to force overtime.
NOT: Harden was a big-time nuisance for the Lakers in the first half, scoring 18 points on nine field-goal attempts while helping the Rockets to a 50-44 lead. His shot left him in the second half and overtime, however, and he finished 4-for-16 from the floor in that span with 12 points. Harden also had a team-high five turnovers.
GOOD MOVE: Houston center Omer Asik more than held his own against the Lakers big men during the first half and only committed one foul in the process. He was the primary defender on Howard during that spell and limited him to four points on 2-for-9 shooting. Unfortunately, Asik got worn down by foul trouble in the second half and Howard eventually finished with 16 points and 18 rebounds, converting 6 of 15 from the field.
QUOTABLE II: "If we don't play with pace, their two big guys just control the game after a while."
-- Houston coach Kevin McHale
BAD MOVE: One of the reasons the Rockets couldn't put the Lakers away in the fourth quarter was the five fouls they committed in the first 3:05, putting L.A. in the bonus the rest of the way. Asik picked up his fifth with 3:56 left in regulation, putting Howard on the line where he made both to extend the lead to 86-83. The Lakers goofed on the score-tying 3-pointer by Parsons. They had a foul to give, as noted by Bryant on Twitter, but did not use it in time.
NOTABLE: Howard went over 9,000 rebounds for his career, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to reach 9,000. He surpassed Wilt Chamberlain by 14 days. The 27-year-old Howard is in his 9th NBA season.
UP NEXT: For the Lakers, Sunday in Game 1 @ San Antonio, Wednesday in Game 2 @ San Antonio, Friday in Game 3 vs. San Antonio. For the Rockets, Sunday in Game 1 @ Oklahoma City, Wednesday in Game 2 @ Oklahoma City, April 26 in Game 3 vs. Oklahoma City.