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How hard did the Lakers, second from the bottom in the West, try to lose last night’s game against the Spurs, second from the top? Let me count the ways:

  • Starting point guard D’Angelo Russell sat out the game due to knee soreness. Tyler Ennis played 39 minutes at the point instead.
  • Brandon Ingram started out a little too hot—putting up 8 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds in nine minutes of first-quarter play—so Luke Walton benched him for the rest of the game, with right patellar tendinitis offering plausible deniability.
  • Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and Larry Nance, Jr., a trio that accounted for 43 of the Lakers’ 76 points through the first three quarters, sat out the last period.
  • Tyler Ennis, David Nwaba, Thomas Robinson, and Tarik Black played that entire quarter in their stead.
  • Metta World Peace, age 37, logged 17 minutes.

Despite these efforts, the Lakers came away with a 102-95 win. “I didn’t want to overplay anybody just to win a basketball game,” said Gregg Popovich, who benched Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge after 14 and 16 minutes, respectively. “It doesn’t make much sense in the long run.”

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Something else that doesn’t make much sense in the long run: winning a basketball game while jockeying for lottery position, with protected picks at stake. The Lakers only get to keep their 2017 first-round pick if it falls within the top three; otherwise it goes to the Sixers. If they end the season in sole possession of the third-worst record, they’ll have a 47 percent chance of landing in the top three in the lottery. If they end in sole possession of the second-worst record, they’ll have a 56 percent chance. When the Lakers woke up yesterday morning they were tied with the Suns in the wins column, but they’ve now slipped “ahead” in the standings; looking at last night in isolation, they sapped their odds of holding onto this year’s first-round pick by nine percent. Process Trusters must be salivating.

Magic fans too, thanks to a side effect of convoluted pick-swapping. If the Lakers end up shipping their pick to the Sixers this year, they’ll also have to ship their 2019 first-round pick to Orlando.

The Lakers have four games left to play, against the Kings, T-Wolves, Pelicans, and Warriors. Don’t be surprised if they start each one with a few ball boys and a sweat mopper in the starting five.