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Kobe Bryant scores 17 in Phoenix finale but Lakers lose again, 119-107

It made all the sense in the world that Wednesday night's game was delayed in the second quarter to clean up a state lottery promotion in which fake money spilled out of a defective piñata at midcourt.

The lottery is what these two broken teams hope to win in a couple of months.

It would be the draft lottery in New York, not the Arizona state-sponsored one, as if the Lakers and Phoenix Suns didn't already know that.

The percentages slid toward the Lakers' favor with their 119-107 loss at Talking Stick Resort Arena, the potential down-the-road prize being Louisiana State's Ben Simmons or Duke's Brandon Ingram if the Lakers (15-56) are lucky.

It continues to defy reality to talk of their lottery possibilities, not playoff pursuits. But they're locked into their own cruel version of a late-season chase, holding the NBA's second-worst record and a 55.8% chance of keeping their top-three protected pick on lottery night.

Their chances fall to 46.9% if they pass the Brooklyn Nets (19-51) or Suns (20-51) in the standings by April 13. Their wiggle room is larger after Wednesday's loss.

If the Nets win three games down the stretch to more or less match their current winning percentage, the Lakers would have to finish 7-4 just to catch them. There's a better chance of Kobe Bryant playing 20 more years.

The crowd was bizarrely distorted in the Lakers' favor, reminiscent of the road games immediately after Bryant announced his retirement intentions last November.

The swarm of Lakers fans didn't care about lottery probabilities. They just wanted to see Bryant in his final game here. He got cheered whenever he touched the ball, especially in the post. There was a long ovation when he left the game in the final minute.

He survived both parts of a back-to-back, following up his 20-point effort Tuesday against the Memphis Grizzlies with 17 against the Suns on five-for-13 shooting. He took two 28-foot three-point shots, one of which went in.

Players who entered the Lakers' locker room afterward included Suns veteran Tyson Chandler, rookie Devin Booker and the NFL's Larry Fitzgerald.

Outside the locker room were Angels outfielder Mike Trout and several other baseball players in town for spring training.

“You can't dream of this as a kid … [to] have told me when I'd retire, I'd get this type of response from city to city,” Bryant said.

Jordan Clarkson and D'Angelo Russell missed 21 of 32 shots and were outplayed by the Suns' backcourt of Booker (28 points) and veteran Brandon Knight (25 points).

The Lakers fell into too many isolation plays down the stretch, a slim three-point deficit becoming worse as things escalated quickly.

“I blame myself a lot for not making it more organized,” said Russell, who scored 14 points. “It just becomes real chaotic at times.”

There are less than three weeks left in Bryant's career. There will be a few more goodbye videos on opponents' scoreboards and a gigantic ceremony at Staples Center.

Then the Lakers' next big date will be the May 17 lottery. A broken team definitely needs a break that night.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on March 24, 2016, in the Sports section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "For Lakers, loss is a win - Their chance of retaining top-three protected pick is better after defeat against West's second-worst team. - PHOENIX 119, LAKERS 107" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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