The Lakers (16-41) won their third straight game Friday night, defeating the Milwaukee Bucks (32-26). Here are five takeaways from their 101-93 victory at Staples Center.
1) Wayne Ellington scored 14 points in the fourth quarter on six-of-seven shooting. He was the difference as the Lakers made their push from 11 points down.
"Wayne obviously got hot," said Milwaukee's Khris Middleton after the game.
"At the end of the day, we are competitors," said Ellington. "We're not coming out here trying to lose any games. Obviously we've faced a lot of adversity .... We've had some tough situations and as a result, our record is what it is. But at the time, we're out here fighting."
2) Though Jordan Clarkson was playing well, Coach Byron Scott went with Jeremy Lin down the stretch. Lin finished with 14 points and six assists, along with a team-high plus-minus of plus-18.
The combination of Lin and Ellington was working in the fourth.
"[Lin is] a guy that can get the ball in the paint and cause two guys on the ball," said Bucks Coach Jason Kidd. "He found open guys and also got to the free-throw line. He played a great fourth quarter."
Lin has averaged 16.3 points a game, while shooting 50.0% from the field since the All-Star break.
Clarkson gave the Lakers 16 points, on seven-of-nine shooting, but the Bucks outscored the Lakers by six over the 30 1/2 minutes the rookie was on the floor.
"I think Jordan Clarkson played really well tonight, and he didn't get to finish the game, but he played really well and kept us in the game," said Lin. "Wayne Ellington got hot at the end. That's just the team effort that we need."
3) Jordan Hill added eight points in the fourth quarter off the bench. The only two starters to play in the period were Ryan Kelly (for five minutes) and Ellington.
The Lakers in recent days have been finding ways to close out games, something they've struggled with throughout most of the season.
"We're starting to grow as a basketball team," said Scott. "I hope we just continue to play this way. We've been playing hard all season long, but we just haven't been able to put it together for four quarters."
The Lakers were strong in the first and fourth, enough to offset sizable lulls in the second and third.
4) Is Carlos Boozer the difference-maker? Since Scott put him back into the starting lineup, the Lakers haven't lost. While that's likely coincidental, Clarkson recently gave Boozer some credit for helping the rookie guard develop.
5) The Lakers' positioning in the NBA draft lottery took a hit over the last few games. The Lakers are "behind" the Minnesota Timberwolves (13-44), Philadelphia 76ers (13-45) and New York Knicks (11-46). With the Lakers winning, other teams are "gaining" ground, including the Orlando Magic (19-41), Denver Nuggets (20-38) and Sacramento Kings (20-36). If the Lakers do keep winning, they may find themselves without their first-round pick in June, since anything but a top-five selection will go to the Philadelphia 76ers (via the Steve Nash trade with the Phoenix Suns).
The Lakers still play the Wolves and Sixers twice each, and the Knicks once. The Knicks and Sixers still play each other twice as well. The only way the Lakers would be 100% guaranteed a top-five pick is if they finished with the worst or second-worst record in the third. At third from the bottom, their odds would still be high at 96.0%, but in their current fourth position, it's a less comfortable 83.8%.