AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Dwight Howard had a simple message for the Lakers after Chandler Parsons' 34-foot, line-drive 3-pointer at the regulation buzzer added five more minutes to the final game of Los Angeles' already exhausting regular season.
Nothing has been easy for the Lakers all year long, Howard told his teammates. Why should the finale be any different?
With five more minutes of perseverance, the Lakers ended up with quite a reward. After getting up Wednesday morning with no guarantee their season wouldn't end that night, they surged into the seventh playoff spot in the West with a 99-95 overtime victory over the Houston Rockets.
Steve Blake scored 24 points and Pau Gasol added his seventh career triple-double for the Lakers (45-37), who only clinched a postseason berth about 10 minutes before tipoff. Despite Parsons' improbable tying basket, Los Angeles won again without Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, earning a first-round date with second-seeded San Antonio.
"I'm proud of the whole team and the way they stepped up at the end of the year," said Blake, who added seven assists and seven rebounds to cap his second impressive game in Bryant's absence. "We definitely expected more at the beginning of the year, but we're proud we're here. ... I couldn't believe it when a couple of days ago somebody said we even had a chance to be in the seventh spot, and now we're there."
Gasol had 17 points, 20 rebounds and 11 assists in his second triple-double in three games for the Lakers, who avoided the embarrassment of missing the playoffs for just the second time in Bryant's 17-year career.
Howard had 16 points and 18 rebounds for the Lakers, and the All-Star center blocked James Harden's shot in the final seconds of overtime to finish up the Lakers' fifth straight win, their eighth in nine games.
"From where we were 20 or 30 games ago, a seven (seed) is pretty good," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We shouldn't have been in that spot in the first place, but it's our fault."
Antawn Jamison added 16 points as the Lakers won their second straight without Bryant, who tore his Achilles tendon last Friday and watched another game from his home in Orange County. Nash hasn't played in eight games with a hamstring injury, but the Lakers finished the regular season with a gritty comeback win despite Chandler's heroics.
"We've fought through so much adversity already," Gasol said. "We knew we could handle a little more."
Parsons hit a tying 3-pointer from three steps behind the line at the regulation buzzer for the Rockets (45-37), who will face top-seeded Oklahoma City after losing four of six to end the regular season.
Harden scored 30 points and Parsons had 23 for the Rockets, who already knew they were back in the postseason after a three-year absence, but could have ended up in three seedings depending on Wednesday's results. Houston had a shot at the No. 6 spot before Golden State beat Portland earlier, but Los Angeles holds the tiebreaker on the Rockets.
"If we play their pace, their two big guys just control the game after a while," Houston coach Kevin McHale said. "We went through some stretches where we struggled offensively. We were stopping them, but they were just getting second and third shots. That killed us."
Houston led for most of the night before the Lakers went ahead with 6
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