Record: 45-37, fourth place in Pacific Division
Before the season, the Lakers again set the table for future titles by signing Jamaal Wilkes and drafting Norm Nixon. But two events sidetracked their 1977-78 season. Just two minutes into the first game of the season, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar punched Milwaukee's Kent Benson in retaliation for an elbow to the throat. Abdul-Jabbar broke his hand and was out for two months. On Dec. 9, Kermit Washington got into a fight with Kevin Kunnert of the Houston Rockets. Kunnert's teammate, Rudy Tomjanovich, ran toward them, intending to break up the fight. Washington saw Tomjanovich out of the corner of his eye, turned and leveled Tomjanovich with a punch, nearly killing him. Washington was fined and suspended for 60 days. Tomjanovich missed the entire season and underwent a series of operations to reconstruct his jaw, eye and cheek.
Playoffs: The Lakers met Seattle in the new best-of-three first-round format and lost in three games. The SuperSonics went on to the NBA Finals, where they lost to Washington.
Western Conference first round
- at Seattle 102, Lakers 90
- at Lakers 105, Seattle 99
- at Seattle 111, Lakers 102