Below are five things to take from the Lakers’ 107-102 loss Wednesday to the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena:
1. The Lakers’ loss put them in a better position in the draft lottery standings. The ship has already sailed for the Lakers to make anything about this season successful. They aren’t making the playoffs. They have too many injuries to count. They have too many holes in their roster. So the Lakers may as well make the most of it, such as dropping this game to put them in a better draft position. The Lakers (25-50) trail the Kings (27-48) by two games, pitting themselves as the NBA’s sixth worst team ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks (14-61), Philadelphia 76ers (16-59), Orlando Magic (21-54), Boston Celtics (23-52) and Utah Jazz (23-52). This current scenario gives the Lakers a 6.3 percent chance to secure the No 1. pick in the NBA Draft lottery on May 20. The Lakers have seven more games to drop even further in the standings, but the games against other NBA basement dwellers bodes more importance.
2. The Lakers fielded a flood of injuries. Of course, the Lakers profess that they are not tanking. That’s because plenty of the Lakers’ struggles involve circumstances, including suffering a fresh batch of injuries. Pau Gasol sat out after having a severe recurrence of vertigo on Wednesday. Chris Kaman missed the game with a strained right calf. Xavier Henry experienced increases soreness in his previously injured right knee. Steve Nash stayed on the sideline as part of his season-long strategy in sitting out back-to-backs to minimize the nerve irritation in his back.
This reality isn’t anything new. The Lakers have fielded 33 different starting lineups this season. But all four players appeared in Tuesday’s game against Portland, leaving the Lakers with a drastically different lineup within a day’s span. That thrust Jordan Hill (18 points on 5 of 15 shooting and 15 rebounds) and Ryan Kelly (six Points) in the starting lineup, while Wesley Johnson (eight points) and MarShon Brooks (three points) appeared after sitting out the previous night’s game entirely.
3. Kent Bazemore made a silly mistake. Looking back, Bazemore’s gaffe could be considered a top moment in the franchise if the Lakers strike a top lottery pick. But for now, Bazemore simply showed his inexperience late in the game. It was bad enough that he missed on an open drive with the Lakers trialing 105-102 with 29 seconds left. It was head scratching that Bazemore then committed an intentional foul on the next possession despite the Lakers having enough time on the 24-second shot clock to get the ball back. The Lakers may have lost anyway. But that play sealed the Lakers’ fate. It also captured how Bazemore’s endless hustle didn’t exactly translate into efficiency. His 14 points came on 6 of 18 shooting.
4. The Lakers’ offense took a hit. Nick Young appeared tired and irritated, a 17-point performance on 6-of-17 shooting and a technical foul after a non-call in a drive to the lane marking a sharp dip in play after dropping 40 points against Portland. Young didn’t have much support. Outside of Jodie Meeks’ 19 points on 8 of 15 clip, no other Lakers player shot above 50 percent. The Lakers nearly made up for this with 32 fast-break points. But for a team that remains deeply flawed on defense, the Lakers cannot afford their offense to go stagnant stemmed from poor ball movement and one-on-one play.
5. The Lakers’ defense suffered again. Different lineup, same story. They gave up 52 points in the paint. Rudy Gay (31 points), Ray McCallum (27 points) and DeMarcus Cousins (20 points) scored at will. This isn’t surprising. But the trend is still disturbing considering the Kings offense were mostly off isolation sets (had only 16 assists on 42 field goals_ and the Lakers outrebounded the Kings, 52-47. This appeared to be simply the case of the Lakers conceding open shots on the first possession.