Lakers point guard Steve Blake drives past Rockets guard Francisco Garcia… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Would it be a countdown to the playoffs for the Lakers, or would the clock strike midnight on their season?
5:58 p.m. — Dwight Howard walks into the Lakers' locker room wearing a smile and a white jacket with a black collar. The outfit draws raves from radio personality Vic "The Brick" Jacobs, clad in a black fur coat and white hat. Howard can only hope he doesn't emulate Jacobs' nickname when he steps to the free-throw line.
6:01 — Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni says he doesn't want to know the score of the Utah-Memphis game, even though a Jazz loss guarantees his team a playoff spot. Too bad, since Utah is down by two points in the second quarter.
6:08 — The scrum of reporters enters the Lakers' locker room and it's business as usual, nobody at his locker and footage of Houston's most recent game showing on the large-screen television. Players are in a back room, presumably watching the only game that matters.
6:37 — Howard makes a cameo at his locker and Jacobs rushes over to praise his jacket. Howard says Jacobs' faux fur get-up looks like what Frank Lucas was wearing when he was caught in "American Gangster."
7:25 — Fans cheer as the final 30 seconds of Memphis' 86-70 victory are shown on the Staples Center scoreboard, securing a playoff spot for the Lakers. Maybe they won't be the biggest flop in NBA history!
7:34 — Lakers forward Pau Gasol takes a microphone and thanks fans for their support and says he's looking forward to seeing them in the playoffs. No mention of whether he wants Oklahoma City or San Antonio.
7:45 — Given their scattershot defense on Houston's James Harden and Jeremy Lin, the Lakers definitely want the Spurs.
7:59 — It seems like old times as Lakers guard Andrew Goudelock checks in for the first time this season to form a backcourt tandem with Darius Morris. Where's Mike Brown?
8:14 — Goudelock goes back to the bench after missing both of his shots, the Lakers having been outscored by 12 points with him on the floor. Thanks for the memories.
8:22 — Steve Blake hits a 20-foot jumper to pull the Lakers within 38-34. If the Mini-Mamba can't get it done, maybe the Blake Mamba can.
8:29 — Harden makes his third three-pointer, giving him 18 points in the first half. A Rockets victory means he won't have to face former teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in the first round. Here's guessing he'd like that.
8:38 — The Lakers head to the locker room trailing 50-44. Kobe Bryant has 15 minutes to deliver his halftime message via text, tweet or trainer Gary Vitti's cellphone.
9:04 — Houston's lead grows to 63-53 and a fan yells, "We want Phil!" Well, at least the sleepwalking Lakers seem to have found a Zen state.
9:39 — Staples Center is suddenly rocking after a Blake three-pointer midway through the fourth quarter gives the Lakers an 81-79 lead. A fan is shown on the scoreboard holding a sign reading "Win it for the Mamba." Which one?
10:05 — Houston's Chandler Parsons makes a line-drive 34-foot jumper at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. It's high drama in the battle for the No. 7 seeding.
10:15 — Jodie Meeks drives the baseline for a two-handed dunk to give the Lakers a 96-93 lead. And here we thought he just made three-pointers.
10:25 — Blake makes two free throws and the Lakers hold on for a 99-95 victory. The Blake Mamba indeed. Bring on the Spurs!
BOX SCORE: Lakers 99, Rockets 95 (OT)