While the Lakers' playoff future is all but set, the question of whether… (Jeff Gross / Getty Images )
It's become a record-breaking playoff run for the Lakers, not the kind they ever expected when Steve Nash put ink to paper last July, followed a month later by the Dwight Howard acquisition.
The Lakers have lost three consecutive playoff games by double digits only one other time (1970 against Phoenix), according to Elias. They just suffered their most one-sided playoff defeat at home. And they haven't been swept in the first round since 1967 by the San Francisco Warriors in what was called the Western Division playoffs.
Then there's this — they'll be even more short-handed for Game 4 against San Antonio, if that's possible.
Metta World Peace will sit out Sunday's game, along with Nash, Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks and Kobe Bryant.
The felt-pen message on the Lakers' whiteboard after Friday's 120-89 loss conveyed three words: "Against All Odds." It should have said "Against All Possible Odds Ever in a First-Round NBA Series." Nobody has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win four games in the NBA playoffs.
It's happened once in baseball playoffs (Boston vs. New York, 2004) and three times in hockey (1942, 1975 and 2010) but never in basketball.
"We're not just going to quit because all the odds are against us," Howard said Saturday. "We're going to fight."
There was little fight in the Lakers on Friday as the "We Want Phil" chants drifted down in the fourth quarter, the defense was lousy (120 points, 61% shooting for San Antonio), and fans abandoned Staples Center long before the final seconds.
Misery has cross-country company though. This would be the first time the Lakers and Boston got swept in the first round in the same season, according to ESPN statistics.
"We play well in spurts, we'll just try to lengthen it a little bit," said Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni, now 4-15 in the playoffs against Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich. "Nobody expects us to do it. We're going to show up and gonna try to do it. Why not?"
The only pleasant surprise Friday for the Lakers was their supposedly untested backcourt. Darius Morris had 24 points and Andrew Goudelock had 20, with the second-year guards combining to make 17 of 32 shots.
Their defense, however, wasn't so special, particularly Goudelock's; he's obviously more accustomed to covering people from the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
World Peace had fluid drained from his knee Friday morning and had a rough outing Friday night, going scoreless on six shots.
"He's not going to be able to go" in Game 4, D'Antoni said Saturday, adding that Earl Clark would take World Peace's place in the starting lineup.
D'Antoni also said there was "no way" Nash (hip, hamstring), Meeks (sprained ankle) and Blake (strained hamstring) would play Sunday.
It all left Gasol with this observation after Game 3: "We've been murdered by injuries."
It's part of the story, sure.
But the Lakers started incredibly slowly way back in October, going 0-8 in exhibition play for the first time, and rarely righted themselves other than during the last week of the regular season, when an overtime game against Houston pushed them up to seventh in the West.
Now they'll very likely finish with an 0-4 playoff mark. A very uncertain road lies ahead.
Howard gave the first of many "no comments" over the next few days when asked about his future with the Lakers.
"I haven't thought about it," he said.
Sunday could be his last game with them. He'll have a big free-agent decision to make in July.
It could be Gasol's final game too. He won't control his destiny because of his $19.3-million salary next season, probably getting traded this summer or waived via the one-time amnesty provision if Howard returns.
"What happens next is totally up to the team and management," Gasol said.
What happens in Game 4 doesn't seem as though it'll be up to the Lakers. Inevitability has rarely seemed so strong for this franchise.