Still out with a respiratory infection, Jeremy Lin left the point guard job wide open for Jordan Clarkson to take advantage of. Against the also tanking Philadelphia 76ers, it was enough to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a dramatic overtime win.
The Lakers won it 113-111, led by Clarkson with 26 points. Some nice dribbling from Wayne Ellington freed Clarkson up for an easy inside shot, feeding him the ball and leaving the Sixers with just 0.7 seconds to win the game. The weird reaction through social media showed just how confusing it is to be a fan of a tanking team, that has a draft pick riding on how badly they do this season.
This is what tanking creates. It gets fans to wish for their team to lose. Jordan Clarkson was actually battered and shredded by Lakers fans on Twitter and over platforms because he won a game with a last second shot. Tanking is all about increasing odds. It’s not analytical. It’s dumb luck and often does more harm than good, and it’s good to see players trying to win despite what the franchise is trying to do.
The Lakers have a top five protected pick. This means that if after lottery night they’re not picking among the first five in the NBA draft, they lose their pick and actually hand it over to the Philadelphia 76ers, who are also angling to end up with the number one overall pick. Sam Hinkie is all about hoarding draft picks, and wouldn’t mind another lottery selection so he can throw it on another long term project.
But it’s good for Clarkson and the other Lakers players to feel good about themselves. Most of them aren’t going to be playing for the Lakers next season, so why should they care about the overall goals of their management and head coach? Players want to win basketball games. Losing, while thinking about how it might help them get a better draft pick through some bouncing ping pong balls, doesn’t feel that good, and players don’t do it on purpose.
It’ll be interesting to see now how the players perform but how Scott and the front office react to the Lakers hitting 20 wins. Right now they have the 4th worst record in the NBA, giving them the 4th best chance of finishing first in the NBA draft. That means they’re not protected by the lottery, which is only for the first three picks.
The Lakers have three home games (Pelicans, Clippers, Blazers). Then it’s on the road against the Clippers (sort of on the road), and away at Denver, followed by home to Minnesota, home against Dallas and road & home against the Kings to finish the season. Will the Lakers put on the worst possible lineups just so they have a chance of finishing among the bottom three?