The NBA season is a long, grinding marathon that lasts for 82 games before the playoffs begin. That is, except for the rare occasions when it doesn’t. On May 3, 1999, the Los Angeles Lakers were preparing for the playoffs in one such year.
The NBA season, which typically starts somewhere around the end of November, didn’t begin that year until February thanks to a lockout as players and owners struggled to come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement.
In order to save the season, the NBA created a shortened, 50-game schedule that saw contests crammed into a small amount of time. This created unique problems as teams attempted to find their rhythm as quickly as possible before the playoffs began.
That season’s Los Angeles Lakers featured a stacked lineup that included Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and Glen Rice, who was acquired mid-season in a trade for the popular Eddie Jones.
As the season wound down, the Lakers found themselves in the middle of the Western Conference playoff race, fighting with the Houston Rockets for the fourth seed behind the San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz, and Portland Trailblazers.
The Lakers would take on the Dallas Mavericks in the second-to-last game of the regular season and in need of a win in order to stay ahead of the Rockets in the standings, which would provide home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
When they needed them most, the Lakers’ stars showed up. Bryant picked the Mavs apart with his underrated passing, which led to a double-double with 17 points and 10 assists. Not to be outdone, O’Neal notched a double-double of his own with 26 points and 11 rebounds.
These performances allowed the Lakers to cruise to a 115-102 victory against the Mavericks, which would help them secure home-court in the first round. This game also had the added benefit of giving the Lakers an up-close look at two Mavs big men who eventually became Lakers in A.C. Green (who was previously with the team) and Samaki Walker.
Both Walker and Green would later help the Lakers win championships. But the Lakers would ultimately fall in the 1999 playoffs to the Spurs, but would have their revenge by kicking off a three-peat of championships starting the next season.
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