As word spread that center Tim Duncan was on crutches and would be unavailable to the Spurs for the foreseeable future (more on that as it develops), the Lakers and Suns were locked in an instant classic. “Los Lakers” and “Los Suns” engaged in a triple-overtime thriller at Staples Center.

Just look at the box score and note the minutes logged by the starters. Ten players labored through at least 40 minutes on Tuesday night. Channing Frye clocked in at nearly 57 minutes (56:59), producing 32 points and 14 rebounds. The Lakers played short-handed, as Andrew Bynum sat out the second game of his suspension, forcing Phil Jackson to work his veterans hard.

Kobe Bryant, playing with myriad injuries and seemingly held together by duct tape, completed 48 minutes of action. Bryant scored 42 points, including the three-point shot late in the third overtime to help seal the win. He finished one assist shy of a triple-double (42 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists).

You could feel your legs turning to molasses as you watched the overtime periods. Each jumpshot appeared more labored to the last, and every whistle was welcomed to slow the pace.

It was a fantasy owner’s dream game, as virtually every player who turned in significant minutes posted strong offensive numbers. The Lakers played nine guys, five of whom finished in double figures. The Suns had seven players finish with at least 11 points.

Lamar Odom finished with 29 points and 16 rebounds.
Pau Gasol added 24 points and 13 rebounds.
Steve Nash had 19 points, 20 assists and dead legs that led to an air-ball down the stretch.

With the victory on a small slate (only three games were played), the Lakers added a half-game to their lead over Dallas for the second seed in the West (the lead stands at one). Los Angeles has three home games on the slate to end the month (the Clippers, Hornets and Mavericks). Four of the Lakers’ final eight games will be played against Western Conference playoff-bound teams in April.

The Dodgers and Angels have yet to inspire much buzz this spring. Manny-wood is no more. Joe Torre is in the offices of Major League Baseball, and the ownership mess has fans turned off.

As a result, every Lakers jersey ever purchased has emerged from closets in Los Angeles. Hell, I saw two guys wearing autographed, Upper Deck Authenticated Magic Johnson jerseys the other day. I’ll admit to being confused, but hey, show your colors.

Don’t worry if your bracket got busted this past weekend. The NBA Playoffs are just around the corner.