Lakers' loss to Knicks can only help lottery success

When Knicks play Lakers, it's a reunion of sorts, but game is only good for lottery hopes

There was a reunion of sorts Thursday, not really the type that involved cousins and hot dogs and maybe even fireworks.

Phil Jackson, Derek Fisher and Kurt Rambis were at Staples Center to see the New York Knicks — their employer — beat the Lakers, 101-94.

Their job descriptions would be hard to fathom from a handful of years ago, when Jackson coached the Lakers, Rambis was his lead assistant and Fisher his point guard with experience and aplomb.

Those were good times for the Lakers, when the regular season served as a long runway to a deep playoff journey, not the draft lottery.

But that was then, the confetti long since swept away.

This is now: Jackson is the Knicks' president, Fisher their head coach and Rambis an assistant who looks about the same as always except for a salt-and-pepper beard.

The two franchises were so decimated that Thursday's game was tough for anyone to watch. Tension rarely made an appearance, unless counting lottery percentages was your thing. TNT canceled its coverage of the game several weeks ago, surely with no regret.

Jackson started watching the game a few rows behind the Knicks' bench, in an aisle seat, politely standing up to let people in and out of his row. After halftime, he moved to a seat across from the Lakers' bench, next to his fiancee, Jeanie Buss.

The fourth quarter started with a fan yelling near Jackson: "We want you back, Phil! We need you!"

The Lakers trailed at the time, 80-74. Their rookie guard, Jordan Clarkson, was struggling, and their defense was nonexistent against a team averaging 92.2 points, second-worst in the NBA.

The fan kept yelling the same thing toward Jackson every minute or so until an arena security guard walked over and quietly had a few words with him. The yelling stopped.

The main thing the Lakers (17-47) earned was a step closer to improved lottery position. They have a better record than the Knicks (13-51), Philadelphia (14-50) and Minnesota (14-49) but still play the 76ers twice and Timberwolves twice.

Lakers Coach Byron Scott wasn't thrilled after the loss, down on a defense that let Tim Hardaway Jr. score 22 points as the Knicks shot 50% on three–pointers.

"I'm sure D-Fish would like to play us 10 more times before the season's over," Scott said.

The losing keeps adding up. How does Scott deal with it?

"I go home and beat up the dog," he said. Then he wanted animal activists to know he was joking. "I don't even have a dog."

Clarkson missed eight of 12 shots and had only 11 points with one assist.

Another Lakers rookie, Tarik Black had 10 points and 11 rebounds Yet another rookie, Jabari Brown, had seven points in his first NBA game after being signed from the Lakers' Development League affiliate.

"The evaluation period has started," Scott said before the game.

Indeed it has.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: Mike_Bresnahan

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