Tension around L.A. Live is growing as the Los Angeles Lakers' 82-game season boils down to what most fans consider a “must-win” game.
“We have to win tonight because, if not, we have no chance against the Thunder,” said Luis Ramirez, 35, a 27-year fan of the purple and gold. “We can beat San Antonio because they are banged up, we match up well and Tim Duncan is old."
The Kobe-less Lakers are in the driver’s seat to make the NBA playoffs for the 60th time as a franchise and can vault into the No. 7 seeding with a win tonight over the Houston Rockets. If both L.A. and the Utah Jazz lose, the Lakers will make the playoffs but would face last year’s Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder.
If the Jazz beat the Grizzlies and the Lakers lose to the Rockets, L.A. will miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2004-05 season and only the sixth time in the franchise’s history.
“This year has been brutal,” Ramirez said as he posed for a picture in front of the statue of Magic Johnson. “We have four future Hall of Famers, but we haven’t been living up to the Lakers name.”
Caesar Lara, 36, a lifelong Lakers fan, also believes the Lakers will deliver in tonight’s must-win game.
“Even without Kobe, I’m 100% confident the Lakers are going to win tonight, “ said Lara as he and his wife snapped some photos of the statues of Laker greats. “A do-or-die game with the season and [Mike] D’Antoni’s job on the line and if [Dwight] Howard will come back -- there are too many questions. They have to win.”
One question the Lakers should know the answer to before tipoff is whether the Utah Jazz beat the Memphis Grizzlies.
But for Liz Meres, 29, the outcome of the Utah game has little to do with how the Lakers should approach tonight’s game.
“I think they need to play like they have to win and not worry about anything else,” said Meres, whose father came from Albuquerque to go to the game with her. “They need to play defense, rebound, not turn the ball over and make their free throws. And we will be in the playoffs again."