With a $100 million payroll, four future Hall of Famers and a storied championship history, it's come to this.

The Lakers' season finale Wednesdaytonight against the Houston Rockets could decide whether they perhaps salvage an otherwise disastrous season or miss the playoffs for only the third time in the team's history.

Few would have guessed this scenario.

Plenty envisioned the Lakers waltzing into the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. Many wondered if anyone could stop a star-studded lineup that featured Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol. Never shy to boast, Lakers forward Metta World Peace predicted the team would surpass the NBA's regular-season record (72-10) set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team.

"I thought we'd be at a different point right now," World Peace said. "But that's all right."

Instead, the Lakers (44-37) enter Wednesdaytonight's game against the Houston Rockets (45-36) at Staples Center with a possible must-win situation. The Lakers are a pure lock for the playoffs if they win, earning a seventh seed and playing the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.

A Lakers' loss coupled with a Utah winloss against Memphis would leave the Lakers in the eighth spot against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

A Lakers' loss along with a Utah win would take the Lakers out of the playoff considerationpicture. In other words, everything in the Lakers' season finale could define their season and beyond.

"Seventh and eighth, I feel good," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We're out, I feel bad it's come to this, but it's in our hands."