The Lakers were already shorthanded heading into Wednesday’s contest against the Cavaliers, but by the time it was over, they didn’t have a combination of qualified and healthy players to even field a five-man team.
L.A. led by as many as 29 points before holding on for the 119-108 victory, but things were a bit sketchy down the stretch.
The Lakers began the game with just eight active players, thanks to injuries suffered the previous night to both Jodie Meeks and Jordan Hill that ruled them out for this one. Steve Nash was a scheduled scratch due to this being the second night of a back-to-back, along with the fact that he just returned on Tuesday from a prolonged, injury-forced absence.
Eight became seven once Nick Young suffered a knee injury and did not return for the second half. Seven became six after Chris Kaman fouled out with 8:29 remaining. Six became five after Jordan Farmar headed to the bench with what appeared to be a calf injury, though Mike D’Antoni said afterward that he simply cramped up and would be available for the team’s next game.
Now, here’s where things got interesting.
Steve Nash was technically active even though the Lakers had no plans to play him, so he was forced to dress and come back out and sit on the bench, presumably in case another injury took place. That turned out not to be necessary, even though Robert Sacre picked up his sixth personal foul with 3:32 to play, which should have meant a disqualification.
A rarely-needed rule, however, meant that Sacre could keep playing, with a technical foul as the price. As detailed in the NBA’s official rule book:
“Each team shall consist of five players. No team may be reduced to less than five players. If a player in the game receives his sixth personal foul and all substitutes have been disqualified, said player shall remain in the game and shall be charged with a personal and team foul. A technical foul shall also be assessed against his team. All subsequent personal fouls, including offensive fouls, shall be treated similarly. All players who have six or more personal fouls and remain in the game shall be treated similarly.”
Had someone else been injured or ejected, Nash still wouldn’t have been forced into action. Another rule states that if that were to happen, the last player to be disqualified for picking up six personal fouls would be allowed to return, and the team would be assessed a technical foul in that instance.
This is the state of the Lakers these days, such that we must scour the rule book to see what happens when two-thirds of the team becomes unavailable due to injury.