The Lakers survived an injury-plagued, tumultuous season to finish seventh in the Western Conference (45-37) after defeating the Houston Rockets (45-37) in overtime, 99-95, on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
Although the Lakers and Rockets split their four meetings, the Lakers earn the higher seeding based on a better record in conference play. The Lakers draw the second-seeded San Antonio Spurs in the first round in a Sunday game while the Rockets will play the top-seeded and defending conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder.
Going into the night, the Rockets were the highest scoring team in the league at 106.1 points a game. The Lakers held them well below that in 53 minutes.
Pau Gasol notched a triple-double with 17 points, 20 rebounds and 11 assists. Steve Blake led the Lakers with 24 points, although it was on 6-of-20 shooting, while finishing with seven assists and seven rebounds.
Dwight Howard played 46 minutes, scoring 16 points, grabbing 18 rebounds, blocking four shots and making three steals.
Houston shot 41.7% (35 of 84) from the field, 24.2% (8 of 33) from three and 70.8% (17 of 24) from the free-throw line.
The Lakers dominated the offensive glass, 17-9, giving the Lakers desperately needed possessions. The team shot 36.7% from the field, 31.2% (10 of 32) from behind the arc and 67.6% (23 of 34) from the free-throw line.
Lakers 90, Rockets 90 (end of regulation)
Houston forward Chandler Parsons hit a long three-pointer at the buzzer in a wild scramble that tied the score as time expired.
The Lakers played to their strengths in the fourth quarter, going inside-out with the ball while clamping down on defense. They defended the final possession well but Chandler sunk a crazy shot after a series of deflected passes and a scramble on the floor for possession of the ball.
Houston guard James Harden leads all scorers with 26 points and the Rockets shot 44.2% from the field.
Point guard Steve Blake has 22 points for the Lakers, who shot 37% as a team and have a 15-8 advantage on the offensive glass.
Power forward Pau Gasol enters overtime just one assist short of a triple-double with 15 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists.
Rockets 71, Lakers 66 (end of third quarter)
Despite falling behind by double digits, the Lakers were able to close to within five points of the Rockets with one quarter of regular-season basketball left.
The Rockets, who are shooting 46.4% from the field, have been led by James Harden with 22 points. Chandler Parsons has chipped in 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting.
Steve Blake is leading the Lakers with 17 points on 5-of-14 shooting while Dwight Howard has only eight points, although he does have 11 rebounds. Pau Gasol is nearing adouble-double with 11 points and eight boards but he's only 5 of 12 from the field.
Despite turning the ball over only six times, the Lakers are struggling on offense, shooting just 36.4% from the field.
Rockets 50, Lakers 44 (halftime)
The Rockets seemed to take control of the game in the second quarter, going ahead by as many as nine points.
The Lakers were able to slowly reduce the deficit, trailing by six after the second quarter.
All-Star guard James Harden leads all scorers with 18 points for the Rockets, who shot 46.2% from the field.
The Lakers have been led by point guard Steve Blake with 15 points but otherwise have struggled to get their inside game going.
Center Dwight Howard shot 2 of 9 from the field and has four points for the Lakers while power forward Pau Gasol has nine points on 4-of-10 shooting.
As a team, the Lakers shot only 33.3% from the field in the first half.
Rockets 24, Lakers 21 (end of first quarter)
After clinching a playoff berth earlier in the night when Utah lost at Memphis, the Lakers started very slowly against the Houston Rockets. Houston went on an early 6-0 run to lead the Lakers by as many as six.
The Lakers responded with nine unanswered points before Houston closed the first quarter holding a 24-21 lead.
Houston shot 47.1% from the field while the Lakers made only 28.6% of their shots.
James Harden leads all scorers with 13 points on 3-of-5 shooting, including 5 of 6 from the free-throw line.
Steve Blake leads the Lakers with six points.
The Lakers (44-37) will host the Houston Rockets (45-36) on Friday night in a crucial game that will determine if the Lakers make the playoffs or who they will play if the Utah Jazz lose to the Memphis Grizzlies this evening.
A win locks in the Lakers as the seventh-seeded team in the Western Conference, with a first-round playoff matchup against the second-seeded San Antonio Spurs.
A loss coupled with a Utah Jazz win (43-38) would eliminate the Lakers from making the playoffs.
If the Lakers and Jazz each lose, the Lakers will qualify for the playoffs and be seeded eighth, drawing the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round.
The Lakers will be without Steve Nash (hip/hamstring), Kobe Bryant (Achilles) and Jordan Hill (hip) tonight.
For a more in-depth breakdown, check out Preview: Lakers vs. Rockets.