Despite not having the best of quarters, the Los Angeles Lakers are better off in terms of win likelihood when Jeremy Lin is playing. So in order to keep the tanking train going and prevent success from happening, Byron Scott took out Lin while still in the lead, brought in Jordan Clarkson and voilà, the Lakers lost again.
Is this losing on purpose? No one will admit it, but it sure looks like it. Lin wasn’t having a very good fourth quarter or an exceptional game, finishing with 7 points and 5 assists, but shooting just 1-of-6 from the field in 24 minutes. He turned the ball over with an offensive foul before being taken out, his fifth foul of the game, which actually made sense to take him out for a short while.
But Clarkson, finishing the game with 15 points in 35 minutes, did nothing positive for the Lakers in those final minutes (4:50 to be exact), as the Mavericks pulled back from two points down (90-88) to a 100-93 win. Yes, Clarkson, the point guard that’s getting so much praise recently, led the Lakers to such efficiency on offense that they scored only five points in almost five minutes.
But picking on a rookie isn’t fair, as some reminded us after the post about Lin being the better player for the Lakers on Sunday. This is Byron Scott and the Lakers brass doing their best to make sure they have enough ping pong balls once it’s time for the lottery. Right now, it’s a tough battle for last place in the NBA: The Lakers have 16 wins. That’s way too much, as the Timberwolves and 76ers are at 14, while the New York Knicks have 12.
A marathon of who can lose best is coming to an end. The Lakers are doing an excellent job of keeping up with the worst teams in the league. No one is suggesting rhe Lakers are playoff team, but they’ve been losing with “honor” in the last few games (five in a row by the last count). They’ve been taking playoff-bound teams to the limit. They’ve been looking respectable, while doing nothing at all. That’s perfect for Scott, who isn’t going to have another head coaching job in this league anyway once the Lakers throw him out, be it at the end of this season or the next.
This was a winnable game for the Lakers they decided to throw away. Lin should have been introduced when thing were getting out of hand, but Scott has his own agenda, individual and in the broader sense, for the team. Lin doing well, the Lakers doing well and winning games, just doesn’t fit in to it. It’s sad that this is an accepted strategy in the NBA, but until someone changes the draft system, we’re going to see a lot more of it.