Lakers beat 76ers as fans pine for lottery

Lakers beat 76ers as fans pine for lottery
Lakers point guard Jeremy Lin scored a season-high 29 points and had five rebounds and five assists in 28 minutes during the win over the 76ers. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Lakers fans are typically kind to Robert Sacre.

Keep your head up, they'll say. This thing will get turned around soon.


But some people aren't so friendly to the reserve Lakers center.

You guys are terrible, they'll say. You're awful. And the concept that just kills Scare: You should keep losing to get better draft position.

"It's annoying," he said before the Lakers beat Philadelphia, 101-87, on Sunday. "Most people are really cool, but you'll have your random guy who will just be a hater. If you ain't got much going on, you've got to be a hater. It's a small thing to a giant."

Sacre has been outspoken about anti-fans for months, yelling in the locker room "Less lottery balls!" after the Lakers won a game in December.

The good-natured Sacre might start disliking reporters, too. It must be pointed out that Sunday's game at Staples Center could have helped the Lakers only if they lost.

They are 18-50, two games better than the 76ers (17-53) in a surprisingly important race for the NBA's third-worst record. It could mean a difference in percentages at the May 19 draft lottery — the third-worst team has a 15.6% chance at winning the No. 1 pick and the fourth-worst has a 10.4% chance.

Owning the third-worst record would also make the Lakers more likely to keep the pick in the first place. The odds of three teams passing them on lottery night would be small. If the Lakers fall to sixth on lottery night, they forfeit the pick to Philadelphia, which acquired it last month from Phoenix.

It's the type of talk Lakers players hate.

"It's a business. People will think like that," reserve center Tarik Black said. "I'm not saying we're thinking like that. We never go into games thinking we need to lose because of the draft pick, and it would be a 'good loss.' We want to win. I can honestly say that everybody in the locker room is upset after games."

There were only smiling faces after the Lakers beat the similarly sad 76ers.

Jeremy Lin had his best game with the Lakers, totaling 29 points, five rebounds and five assists. Ed Davis was strong as well, especially defensively, adding 11 rebounds and four blocked shots to eight points.

Underneath it all, though, was that obscure line.

The Lakers need youth. And talent. This year's draft will be loaded with great amateur players, especially at center and point guard. The worse the Lakers play now, the better they could potentially be in the future.

Lakers fans at the game were fervently in favor of winning. They uncorked the almost-forgotten "We Want Tacos!" chant when it appeared their team would win and hold the 76ers under 100 points.

Then, surprisingly, came a standing ovation in the final seconds.

It's true. A standing ovation from most of the 17,891, a less-than-capacity crowd by about 1,000.

Lakers Coach Byron Scott said he didn't know whether fans wanted victories or losses these days because he hadn't checked his Instagram account in a while.

He knew that plenty of people wouldn't be happy with Sunday's victory.

"I'm sure if I go on, there's going to be a lot of people probably saying, 'What the hell are you doing? What's wrong with you guys?' " he said.

Fans have been kinder in person, Scott said.

"From the feedback that I've been getting from people around the city, they're enjoying the way our guys play, how hard they play and how they compete," Scott said before referencing Sunday's standing ovation. "I'm not surprised by it."

Like it or not, the lose-for-the-lottery theme will be part of the Lakers' final few weeks. Minnesota (15-54) holds the league's second-worst record and a 19.9% chance at the No. 1 pick. The Lakers play the Timberwolves two more times and the 76ers next week in Philadelphia.

Scott said Lin might rejoin the starting lineup after being a reserve nearly two-thirds of his time in Los Angeles. Scott was coy about it, and it was unclear whether Lin would take the place of rookie point guard Jordan Clarkson or journeyman shooting guard Wayne Ellington.

Clarkson has dipped a bit, posting consecutive eight-point games after 11 in a row with double-digit scoring. But he summed up the lively debate among Lakers followers right now.

"Fans are going to be fans," he said. "It's just one of those things you've got to live with."