The Lakers have won four games in a row, which is good news if you are a Lakers fan that derives some happiness from each individual win, and very bad news if you are a Lakers fan who would prefer that the team have its best chance at keeping a lottery pick this year.
You know the song and dance by now: If the Lakers’ lottery pick is in the top three, they get to keep it; if it falls out of the top three, they have to give it to the Sixers. The Lakers are keenly aware of this, which is why last week they did just about everything in their power to lose to the Spurs, but somehow still won.
Then they beat the Kings on Friday, and last night they squeaked by the T-Wolves thanks to a game-winning buzzer-beater from D’Angelo Russell:
The Lakers weren’t quite as blatant about trying to lose last night as they were against the Spurs last week, though Metta World Peace, Thomas Robinson, and Tyler Ennis all played heavy minutes, and Russell’s winner only came after Peace took the first crack at it and bricked a three form the corner.
The Lakers are now one win “behind” the Suns in the wins column with two games left to play, but aren’t in danger of losing the third spot to the Sixers, who have won 28 this year. The Suns only have one more the play, so the best the Lakers can hope for is a tie, at which point the two teams will split the difference in ping pong balls. But if the Lakers win one of their next two games, they’ll go in with a 47-percent chance at landing in the top three rather than the 56-percent chance they could have had by securing sole possession of the second-worst record in the league.
Is nine percentage points worth a strong run of play to finish the year and a thrilling moment from D’Angelo Russell? Ask the Lakers after May 16.