Whether or not the 2013 Kobe-less Lakers join the Lakers teams of 1958, 1975, 1976, 1994 and 2005 as the only ones not to make the playoffs now comes down to if either Marc or brother Pau Gasol can win their season finale Wednesday. Either Marc needs to stop Utah’s Al Jefferson inside after he scored another 22 points Monday to beat Minnesota, or Pau needs to step up and help the Lakers beat the Rockets.
Jefferson followed up on his 40-point performance against Minnesota in his last game, to score 22 more against them Monday. Marc Gasol will provide a much tougher obstacle than the weak Minnesota inside. If he leads Memphis to a victory on their home court, it will clinch a playoff spot for his brother Paul of the Lakers in the final game of the regular season.
The Lakers were off Monday after winning their first game after Kobe Bryant’s injury, and they are in line to start the playoffs in Oklahoma City UNLESS they lose to Houston Wednesday AND Utah beats Memphis.
The odds are in the Lakers’ favor. Utah must go into Memphis, where the Grizzlies are 30-9, to upset Marc. Even if they do, the Lakers need only to win at home against the Houston Rockets, whose backcourt of Jeremy Lin and James Hardin could give them trouble with Bryant out, but Houston is only 16-23 on the road this season.
However, all the Jazz could do Monday night was win to stay alive, and they did just that. After struggling at home against the Timberwolves, they came back to win easily 96-80, as Mo Williams added 15 points and seven assists to Jefferson’s big night underneath.
After Minnesota made one last run to cut the lead to three late in the third quarter, Jefferson took over again inside with six straight points.
For the full AP story on the game, click here.