This is the extended version of a story that appears in ESPN The Magazine's April 14 One Day One Game Issue. Subscribe today!
YOU CAN SEE the tank even on the plays that work.
It's Feb. 28 and the Lakers hold a four-point lead against the Kings in a game both teams would be better off losing. With 39 seconds left, Lakers guard MarShon Brooks dribbles outside, ostensibly waiting for Pau Gasol to set a screen. Before Gasol can get to Brooks' left, though, Brooks takes off right, flying by Kings rookie Ben McLemore. Gasol's defender, Jason Thompson, shows no interest in pick-and-roll defense, so diminutive point guard Isaiah Thomas must decide whether to stop Brooks' penetration or guard against a Jordan Farmar corner three. He does neither. So Brooks hits an off-balance runner, sealing a rare win for the hometown Lakers. The crowd, even more anonymous than usual with Jack Nicholson absent from his courtside seat, slowly rises from its slumber. It's been that kind of game. It's been that kind of season.