Lakers' lottery odds get better with loss to Phoenix Suns

The Lakers stumbled around for 21/2 hours Friday, losing to the similarly sad Phoenix Suns and creating a very good question.

How on Earth did this team beat Golden State?

The Lakers shot 36% against the only other Western Conference team eliminated from playoff contention, and if that's not sad, what is?

There was nothing positive to write about the Lakers' young players — they were all off — and fans were silent most of the night until a late rally featuring none of the starters in a 95-90 loss at Staples Center.

At least lottery aficionados could celebrate.

The loss put the Lakers (14-55) that much closer to securing the NBA's second-worst record and a better chance at keeping their top-three protected draft pick. They currently have a 55.8% shot at it on lottery night but would slip to 46.9% if Phoenix (19-50) were to fall below them in the standings.

It probably won't happen. Not after Friday.

D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle made a combined five of 32 shots (15.6%).

"Lack of trust with each other is to me evident. They don't cover for each other," Lakers Coach Byron Scott said of the young starters. "They don't understand how to play together yet."

In other words, they get the ball and they shoot it. Not much creativity.

"It's true," said Randle, who made one of nine shots. "We're not moving the ball. Playing a little bit too much one-on-one."

Veteran Lou Williams (30 points) led a gamecomeback with almost no help. Brandon Bass (10 points) was the only other Lakers player in double-figure scoring.

Kobe Bryant sat out another home game, which could no longer be called surprising. There's a predictable pecking order for when he plays:

1) All road games.

2) Home games against high-profile teams (Cleveland, Golden State) or players (Carmelo Anthony).

3) Home games against crummy teams.

Friday's game definitely fell under No. 3, though Scott threw a curve into the mix by saying earlier in the day there was a 75% chance Bryant would play.

It was reduced to 0% a few hours later.

"I don't know what changed," Scott said. "He felt pretty good this morning and then this afternoon he didn't feel good and so he informed us he wouldn't be able to play tonight."

Bryant has now played 96% of games away from Staples Center since declaring his intent to retire and only 58% of games at the arena.

He has complained of soreness in his right shoulder, the same one in which he sustained a season-ending torn rotator cuff last year.

"From my standpoint, I kind of understand it," Scott said. "He has to just kind of think about himself more than anything and his future after basketball as well. He doesn't want to do damage to the shoulder so much so that five, 10 years from now he has to go back and get surgery again."

Bryant walked from the locker room to the bench during a timeout almost seven minutes into the game. Fans cheered. The Lakers had five points at the time.

Scott continued to say he didn't look at lottery percentages, didn't want to hear that losing might be good for the Lakers.

"It doesn't enter my brain whatsoever," he said, adding it would be bad karma to try to lose on purpose "I'm going to coach to try to win these games and I hope our players come out trying to win the games."

It doesn't really matter. The Lakers are a poor bunch with or without Scott's coaching and players trying to win.

Follow Mike Bresnahan on Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on March 19, 2016, in the Sports section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Odds just got better - Bryant is a late scratch, then L.A. falls five games behind (or is it ahead of?) Suns. - PHOENIX 95 LAKERS 90" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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