Lakers' tank debate comes to end with 120-106 loss to Mavericks

Lakers clinch the NBA's fourth-worst record before losing to the Mavericks, 120-106

Reality finally returned to the Lakers, whose fan base had turned its back on one of the most awkward seasons ever.

The Lakers clinched the NBA's fourth-worst record, ending some of the external arguing and hand-wringing amid the importance of hanging onto their top-five protected draft pick.

Sure, Lakers followers could start rooting for their team again, though it didn't exactly change anything, the Lakers losing to the Dallas Mavericks, 120-106, Sunday at Staples Center.

Jordan Clarkson had 26 points and Tarik Black a career-high 19 rebounds, but there were a different set of stats, just in case Lakers fans wanted the final percentages: Going into the May 19 lottery, the Lakers officially have a 17.2% chance of falling to sixth or seventh and forfeiting their first-round pick because of the Steve Nash trade. They also have a 37.8% chance of moving into the top three spots.

At any rate, the months-long "tanking" debate and divided fan base came to an end after the Lakers could no longer fall below Philadelphia — or Minnesota and New York — in the standings.

"Yay," Lakers Coach Byron Scott said, following it up with a hearty laugh. "It feels great."

Then he got serious.

"It was a little awkward. True Laker fans, I understand what they were trying to say as far as lose games and try to get the very best pick," Scott said. "I don't agree with it at all but I do understand it."

The Lakers now have another matter at hand. They have two games to prove they're not the worst team in franchise history, a distinction held by the 1957-58 Minneapolis Lakers and their .264 winning percentage.

The Lakers (21-59) have a .262 success rate this season and need to win Monday at Sacramento or Wednesday at home against the Kings to avoid the inglorious worst-ever tag.

In the latest case of a season gone awry, Wesley Johnson was off to a great start Sunday, scoring 16 points in the first half, but didn't return because of a sprained left ankle. Then Dwight Buycks sustained a broken hand, leaving the team with only two healthy guards. Forward Ryan Kelly might become their third guard for Monday's game, though the team could sign a fill-in player before tipoff.

Tyson Chandler had 20 points for Dallas, which never swept the Lakers in the regular season until last year. Make it two seasons in a row.

The Lakers keep losing but they're actually not hammering each other. Part of it has to do with submission to a losing season a long time ago. And the players actually don't hate one another, making for a quiet locker room, not tense or fiery, after a loss.

"I would like to think that it had a lot to do with the way the roster was built … and also had something to do with us as a coaching staff," Scott said. "I would like to take some credit, me and my staff, for some of it. Not a lot."

Scott physically patted himself on the back while saying the last two sentences. It was one of the few funny moments of an almost-done season.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times