The Lakers didn't need to play a minute of basketball to make it in, as the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Utah Jazz by a score of 86-70. With the loss, Utah was officially eliminated from postseason contention.
Accompanying Utah's devastating defeat was an overwhelming high as the Lakers snuck into the playoffs.
The Jazz were in position to prevent the Lakers from making the postseason for just the second time since 1994. Unfortunately, the Jazz were unable to capitalize on that opportunity as they fell apart during the third period of play.
Despite trailing just 40-38 at halftime, Utah's momentum was cut short when it scored a mere 13 points during the third quarter.
Al Jefferson did all he could to keep the Jazz in it, tallying 22 points and 16 rebounds against All-Star center Marc Gasol. Unfortunately, the rest of the starting lineup combined for 30 points on 10-of-37 shooting from the floor.
That was an ill-timed effort on a night in which Utah's season was on the line.
Melissa Rohlin @melissarohlin
It's official. After a crazy season, the Lakers will be in the playoffs. Utah lost, 86-70. Now to see if LA will be a 7th or 8th seed.4/18/2013, 2:26:24 AM
The Lakers, on the other hand, can let out a big, collective sigh of relief.
L.A. has been on a turbulent ride, playing under three head coaches and failing to permanently move above .500 until Mar. 8. Since Jan. 23, however, the Lakers are 27-12 and beginning to look like a playoff team.
Unfortunately, they're also preparing for their first Kobe Bryant-less postseason since 1996.
The Lakers defeated the Houston Rockets 99-95 in overtime on Wednesday night to decide their postseason seeding. With the win, they move ahead of Houston and into seventh to set up a first-round clash with the San Antonio Spurs.
In turn, Houston will move to eighth and face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the opening round of play.
Regardless of whom they play, the Lakers have made an improbable run from below .500 to the postseason just a month and a half later. How far they will go is unclear, but one thing is undeniable.
The L.A. Lakers have made the run to the postseason that few believed they could after their early-season woes.