How Lakers finished with four 'eligible' players — and still won
FEB 06, 2014 8:00a ET
We know what you're thinking: The Lakers are terrible this season. They've had a lot of big wins over the years. And these aren't exactly LeBron's Cavaliers.
But in one of the most bizarre finishes to a game the NBA has seen in quite some time, the Lakers ended their seven-game losing streak in Cleveland despite playing the final 3 minutes, 32 seconds with only four eligible players. That's right — four eligible players in a sport that requires five players on the floor at all times.
Let's see the Magic & Kareem, West & Wilt, or Shaq & Kobe teams do that.
A detailed recount of the game can be found here. But here's a quick run-down:
Through attrition and an aging roster, the Lakers took the Quicken Loans Arena floor with only eight players available.
The starting lineup? Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar, Wesley Johnson, Ryan Kelly, and Robert Sacre. The bench? Chris Kaman, Kendall Marshall, and Nick "Swaggy P" Young. Not exactly the Dream Team to begin with. In fact, the injured Lakers not dressed fort the game was coach Mike D'Antoni's most star-studded group by far:
Steve Nash (rest), Jodie Meeks (sprained ankle suffered Tuesday night in Minnesota), Jordan Hill (strained neck suffered Tuesday night in Minnesota), Pau Gasol (groin, did not make trip) and Kobe Bryant (knee, did not make trip).
The Lakers started hot, led by double digits in the first quarter and held a 21-point lead at halftime. But they had also lost Young by the half, out with a twisted knee. Kaman fouled out in the fourth quarter, leaving LA with six players, and Farmar left the game for good with a leg injury shortly thereafter.
The bench looked like this:
Yup . . . five guys, no margin for error. So when Sacre picked up his sixth foul with 3:32 to play, he was disqualified. Only he wasn't, because teams are not allowed to play with only four players on the floor. So the Lakers were assessed a technical foul and allowed to play with Sacre on the floor.
In addition, the officials told D'Antoni, any additional fouls on Sacre would also result in a technical. Sacre did not commit a seventh foul.
So the Lakers finished with four eligible players on the floor . . . and beat an actual NBA team . . . on the road . . . by 11 points.
To see how the world reacted as the game unfolded, click here.
Here are some other goodies:
• With so few guys playing, somebody had to rack up numbers. Enter Blake, who turned in a triple-double (11 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds)
• Rookie Ryan Kelly had a career-high 26 points for LA
• The Lakers set a franchise record with 18 3-pointers made (albeit on 37 attempts)
• Kyrie Irving, starting point guard for the Eastern Conference All-Star team and the latest Cavs franchise player to hint he is tired of losing in Cleveland, was taken out of the game with 7:32 to play in the third quarter and never returned
Here's what some of the game's, uh . . . combatants, had to say to The Associated Press after the game:
D'Antoni:: "I was not going to go to Nash — it was not an option to us — but the other thing we talked about was having Jordan go out there and just stand in the corner. When the officials came over to explain the options to me, we decided to keep Robert out there. I knew he would be smart and not commit too many more fouls. . . . I didn't know about that rule, but it's a nice rule."
Sacre: "That was just crazy. When I got my sixth foul, I was just like, 'Oh, dang!' Then I got to come back in, so I thought it was something special. I didn't know what was going on."
Irving: "[The second unit] definitely deserved to be on the floor [in the fourth quarter]. That second group did a heck of a job. You have to give a whole bunch of credit to them. If I were the coach, I would have played that second group as long as he did."
Here's what some rather interested parties thought:
Laker Nation: Outstanding win tonight for the @Lakers over the Cavs 119-108, especially only having 5 players available to finish the game.— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) February 6, 2014
And here's the best part — what the rest of the world thought:
Lakers team bus has arrived. pic.twitter.com/LtaoKhbtQl— Jason Gay (@jasonWSJ) February 6, 2014
The Lakers only have seven players and Chris Kaman still knows he won't play. pic.twitter.com/tntnu8A3fr— Brett Poirier NBA (@BrettNBA) February 6, 2014
Brahh we can go suit up with the lakers and get playing time.— Malik Finley (@ThatDudeLeek) February 6, 2014
I just saw that the lakers had to forfeit their game haha #Pitiful ... I see why Dwight didn't want to come back.... Lakers = Expansion Team— Ify Nonyelu (@TheonlyYoungE) February 6, 2014
This is me watching the Cavs get obliterated by the Lakers right now. pic.twitter.com/m0Gw6AV0NW— SB Nation NBA (@SBNationNBA) February 6, 2014
The news wasn't all good for the Lakers, however. They entered the game with the same 16-32 record as the Cavs. LA got the win, but Cleveland got a few more ping-pong balls in the race for lottery position. Good thing the Lakers don't play the Cavs again this season.
—The Associated Press contributed to this report