Lakers power forward Pau Gasol is swarmed by the double-team defense of… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
The Lakers' locker room was an inexplicably steamy 77 degrees an hour before their playoff game.
Yeah, they felt the heat.
They got pushed off the court by the San Antonio Spurs and almost surely will be ejected soon from the Western Conference playoffs after an 120-89 loss Friday at Staples Center.
Fans booed in the second quarter, somehow sensing this could be the Lakers' worst home playoff loss ever. It was. No longer holding that title was a 106-77 loss to Portland in the 2000 Western Conference finals.
BOX SCORE: Spurs 120, Lakers 89
Shot-drilling guard Andrew Goudelock made Lakers fans forget reality on a few fun plays, but one brick-wall stat was unforgiving — an NBA team has never come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series. Game 4 is Sunday at Staples Center, the Lakers facing first-round elimination for the first time since 2007.
It was probably smart for Kobe Bryant to watch this one from the locker room, not the bench. His Twitter feed was quiet. So was his team, whatever was left of it.
Four Lakers guards sat out because of injuries, so third-stringer Darius Morris started alongside Goudelock, signed almost two weeks ago out of the Development League and in the lineup Friday because of everyone else's woes.
Goudelock had 20 points, the most he'd ever scored in an NBA game, and Dwight Howard had 25 points and 11 rebounds.
It wasn't nearly enough to prevent a “We Want Phil” chant early in the fourth, the Lakers down by 20. And again later in the quarter.
Even Phil Jackson would struggle with this roster — absentees included Bryant (torn Achilles' tendon), Steve Nash (sore hamstring, hip), Steve Blake (strained hamstring) and Jodie Meeks (sprained ankle).
“Our guys played as hard as they could play,” Coach Mike D'Antoni said. “Times are tough right now.”
It was evident pretty early which way this would go. The Lakers shot 34.8% in the first quarter and trailed, 30-18. They were within 11 at halftime only because of Goudelock's 12 second-quarter points.
The fourth quarter was pretty much optional, however, the Spurs pulling away to lead 85-63 through three. The lower bowl at Staples was almost half empty with five minutes to play.
Metta World Peace did next to nothing in 17 minutes, missing all six of his shots and going scoreless. The highlight of his day came Friday morning, when he had a cyst in his knee drained and posted on Twitter a wide-eyed photo of himself holding up a full syringe.
Howard again had problems avoiding foul trouble, exiting with 4:44 left in the third quarter after picking up his fourth foul. As in Game 2, he also picked up a technical foul before heading to the bench. He returned in the fourth quarter, as if it mattered.
His frontcourt mate, Pau Gasol, had a triple-double with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, but a too-quiet scoring night, getting only 10 shots and making five.
Shortly after tipoff, a magnitude-3.2 earthquake was felt in Marina del Rey. It shook the nearby home of Jackson, who wondered tongue-in-cheek on Twitter if it was a Tim Duncan dunk, and was centered two miles from the Lakers' training facility in El Segundo.
Made sense. Nothing has been simple for the Lakers this seismic season. They will assemble in El Segundo again Saturday, possibly for their last practice of 2012-13.
With almost nothing left to play for, will there be any fight left in the Lakers in Game 4?
“It's hard to determine,” Gasol said. “I guess we'll see Sunday how much fight we have in us . . . to give ourselves a chance and not have a 30-point loss at home.”
After the game, Bryant was whisked away via golf cart from the Lakers' locker room, stopping only to talk trash with Spurs forward Tracy McGrady.
It wasn't about the game. It was about old times. Happier times for the Lakers and, by extension, Bryant.
Friday's game was all about the Spurs, who shot 61.2%. Duncan scored 26 points, Tony Parker 20.
Long before the one-sided loss, D'Antoni was asked how he felt.
“As a coach, you sleep like a baby. Every 15 minutes you wake up and cry,” he said.
It won't be long before the crying ends. A $100-million payroll might not even buy the Lakers a playoff victory.