The Lakers clinched the NBA’s second-worst record the previous night, so they hit the court Friday and celebrated the best way they knew — with another loss.
It was a weird one, a 110-102 defeat against a New Orleans team so ravaged that Kobe Bryant was hugged by Alexis Ajinca and James Ennis afterward, not exactly a who’s-who of players lining up to wish him well.
He finally found injured forward Anthony Davis in street clothes and they embraced. There are three games left in Bryant’s career.
He took seven three-point attempts in the first quarter alone and finished with 14 points on four-for-15 shooting. With his body threatening to shut down almost daily, he’s back to shooting mostly from the perimeter.
And yet the many Lakers fans in attendance went wild when he jogged to the scorers’ table and reentered the game with 7:20 left, the Lakers down 16. He missed a three-point attempt from 26 feet, was off on a baseline turnaround and threw the ball away for a turnover. Then he returned to the bench to thunderous cheers at Smoothie King Center.
He later said he reentered the game only because he heard fans chanting his name, the first time he acknowledged doing that on his goodbye tour.
“It’s strange,” he said. “Like, this is the last time, last trip.”
The Lakers have two more road games — Sunday at Houston and Tuesday at Oklahoma City — before returning home for the season finale Wednesday against Utah.
Other than Bryant playing out the string, the game was basically uneventful for the Lakers, who were handed the NBA’s second-worst record Thursday when Phoenix unexpectedly beat Houston.
They now have a 55.8% chance of keeping their top-three protected draft pick at the May 17 lottery.
It breaks down to a 19.9% shot at the top overall pick, 18.8% at No. 2 and 17.1% at No. 3. If two teams jump the Lakers on lottery night, the pick is lost because of the Steve Nash trade.
D’Angelo Russell had 32 points Friday and Jordan Clarkson added 26, both efficiently shooting at least 60%, but their defense and ball movement was not worthy.
“Defensively, they were both awful,” Lakers Coach Byron Scott said. “And two assists between the two of them ain’t good. They need to do a better job of sharing the ball.”
Reserve forward Nick Young arrived a bit before tipoff after missing Thursday’s charter flight because of what the team called personal reasons. He was inactive for the game and did not talk to reporters afterward.
The Pelicans (30-49) trotted out a ragtag starting lineup of Ajinca, Ennis, Dante Cunningham, Omer Asik and Toney Douglas.
But then Ajinca had 28 points and 15 rebounds for a team without Davis, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday.
This was a team the Lakers actually had a chance to sweep in the season series after taking both earlier meetings. Brooklyn, however, would be the only team the Lakers swept, the Nets becoming a not-so-kind trivia answer in the worst Lakers season ever.
Follow Mike Bresnahan on Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan