Lakers' 94-85 loss to Utah might be good for draft

Lakers' 94-85 loss to Utah might be good for draft
Lakers forward Wesley Johnson tries to defend driving Jazz forward Gordon Hayward in the second half. (Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)

Don't worry, Lakers. It's not all that awful.

There are plenty of reasons to celebrate.


Nobody suffered from altitude sickness Friday. Their boring season to nowhere is officially halfway over. And that 94-85 loss to the Utah Jazz was, how do you say it, a good loss? Maybe a smart one.

It wasn't on purpose, of course, but the Lakers and Jazz had the NBA's fourth and fifth-worst records and, as every Lakers fan knows, the first-round draft pick owed to Phoenix is top-five protected.

The Lakers (12-29) are now, ahem, 2 1/2 games behind the Jazz in the standings. There are plenty of games between now and April 15, the end of the Lakers' season, but they'll be in decent shape heading into the May 19 draft lottery if this keeps up.

It's probably best not to tell them such things. They went out and won their final two games last season, including an eternally meaningless one here, and ended up two games ahead of Utah and Boston in the standings. Oops.

The Lakers' won-lost record will be heavily monitored for three more months. Beyond that, it's always worth tracking Kobe Bryant's battle with a disobedient body, Nick Young's ridiculous quotes … and … and … that might be all.

Bryant did not go to Utah so he could rest for the seventh time in a 14-game stretch, which left the Lakers with few options at EnergySolutions Arena.

Jeremy Lin did nothing as a starter (six points, three assists, 30 minutes) and Wesley Johnson pulled another disappearing act (five points, four rebounds, also 30 minutes).

The night wasn't without its comedy, unintentional or not.

Young went out to shoot an hour before tipoff and happily autographed a sign held by a Lakers fan: "G.O.A.T.s: 1) Kobe Bryant, 2) Nick Young, 3) Michael Jordan."

Young then broke a lengthy slump by scoring 23 points. It was probably a good thing, since Lakers Coach Byron Scott seemingly had his fill of him.

"He has to take the approach that the coach said," Scott said in a third-person way before the game. "I know he's a shooter. But as his coach has talked to him about, there are other things that you must do to continue to be on the floor. I'm not saying that to be speaking to myself. It's as simple as that."

Young must have done enough to merit 26 minutes. Maybe it was making 13 of 13 free throws and continuing to lead the league in accuracy from the stripe. Or maybe there was just nobody else left to play.

After all, Jordan Hill (16 points) was the only other Lakers player with double-figure scoring.

Utah (14-26) had lost three consecutive games but that ended behind 31 points from Gordon Hayward and 18 points and 10 rebounds from Derrick Favors, young players the Lakers would love to have.

Not that they should fret too much. Soon enough, they'll be able to draft one of their own.