INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- A funny thing happened on the way to the lottery.
The Los Angeles Lakers went eyeball to eyeball with extinction all weekend and lived to tell the story. Sedale Threatt made a 14-footer with four seconds to play in overtime last night, giving the Lakers a 109-108 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, sending the Lakers to the playoffs for the 16th consecutive season.
"This is as meaningful as making the Finals last year," said Lakers coach Mike Dunleavy, whose team made the playoffs without the retired Magic Johnson or the injured James Worthy and Sam Perkins.
"We had several opportunities to pack it in, but we didn't."
The Lakers will play the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round, starting Thursday in Portland, Ore. The Clippers will play the Utah Jazz, starting Friday in Salt Lake City.
"I don't think I've ever been more proud of a Lakers team," general manager Jerry West said. "With what has happened to us, it's a great tribute to all of the players and coaches.
"Amazing is a word that's used a lot, but it really is amazing."
Once again, the Lakers had to watch their fate pass before their eyes on television. Once again, the Houston Rockets lost, 100-97 to Phoenix, granting the Lakers a reprieve. Houston's magic number -- one since the Lakers lost at Sacramento Thursday -- never came up as the Rockets lost their final three games.
Then the Lakers had to claw their way past the Clippers, who wiped out a 15-point first-half Lakers lead and went ahead by nine during the third quarter.
With four seconds to play in regulation, the Lakers' Elden Campbell had a chance to win it with two free throws -- but made only the second attempt.
With 10 seconds to play in overtime, Danny Manning tipped in Ken Norman's missed shot, giving the Clippers a 108-107 lead.
The Lakers ran their last play for Threatt, driving left from the top of the key. Doc Rivers, guarding him, fell backward, trying to draw a charging foul, but did not get it.
Instead, Threatt got an open 14-footer from the left wing, and made it.
The Lakers showed up early yesterday afternoon to watch the Rockets on TV, as they had Friday in Portland.
Once more, it worked like a charm.
The Clippers, meanwhile, got ready to rain on the Lakers parade. Charles Smith, who sat out their previous game Friday at Golden State, went back into the lineup.
"I think we should [play it normally]," coach Larry Brown said. "We owe it to the league and everybody. We've got to start playing better and stop celebrating."
Their playoff celebration lasted a little longer.
Scott had 11 points during the first quarter as the Lakers took a 28-20 lead, then boosted it to 35-20 in the second quarter.
Danny Young's three-pointer at the end of the first half put the Clippers ahead, 54-51. An 8-2 burst at the start of the third quarter made the score 62-53.
After that, the Lakers played catch-up, and did.
"Yeah, I think so," Threatt said. "Nobody expected us to win."
"We went against all the odds," veteran forward A.C. Green said. "We looked dead, but now we're alive. No one expected us to be here."