It hasn't been a season to remember for the Los Angeles Lakers, but their third quarter against the New York Knicks on Tuesday night was unforgettable. It also broke some records en route to a 127-96 victory.
It's official: Lakers 51 points is a franchise record, including Minny years. They had 49 in a quarter twice, most recently 1972 vs. GS.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) March 26, 2014
Lakers shot 73%, or 19-of-26, in the third. Scored at least a point on 88% of their third-quarter possessions. That is truly unbelievable.— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) March 26, 2014
For a team still playing for a chance to compete in the playoffs, the Knicks defense was woefully uninspired. It was also almost certainly a bit embarrassed with Phil Jackson looking on from a luxury box at the Staples Center.
The subtexts for the Lakers were unmistakable.
With a history filled with iconic names, it was a rotation of castaways and prospects who made history. Not even Pau Gasol was around to contribute to the historic effort.
Not Mikan, Elgin, West, Wilt, Gail, Magic, Kareem, Worthy, Shaq, Kobe - Johnson/Hill/Kaman/Meeks/Marshall/Baze/Young/Henry/Kelly.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) March 26, 2014
And with Jackson looking on, it was head coach Mike D'Antoni who had the rare opportunity to gloat.
It wasn't just a historic night by Lakers standards. It was the first time since 2010 any team could boast a quarter like this.
Say what you will about Los Angeles' 29th-ranked defense. This team can certainly score. Even without franchise face Kobe Bryant, D'Antoni's run-and-gun system is producing more or less like it's supposed to. D'Antoni used the performance to make a basic point about his philosophy (via the Lakers on Twitter):
D'Antoni on the historic 51-point 3rd quarter: "It was good. It's infectious. Start taking good shots & they start going in."— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 26, 2014
It's just that more often than not, the other team produces even more. That wasn't the case Tuesday night. The Lakers onslaught ensured that New York's West Coast road trip got off to a rocky start, potentially threatening the club's attempt to sneak into the playoffs. The loss was New York's second straight after previously falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a lackluster showing that saw their eight-game winning streak snapped.
The performance won't make any difference to the Lakers' long-lost playoff hopes, but it provided a rare highlight from an otherwise depressing season.