With a big Cavs-Celtics showdown (which turned out to be quite anticlimactic), and Russell Westbrook chasing history, it’s unlikely many casual basketball fans were tuned into the matchup between the Lakers and the Spurs Wednesday night. The Lakers were long ago eliminated from the playoffs, and the Spurs clinched a playoff berth nearly a month ago.
While few were watching, almost everyone soon became aware of the score, as the Lakers jumped out to a 31-14 lead after the first quarter, then proceeded to open the second quarter on a 9-0 run, pushing their advantage to a shocking 26 points over the No. 2 team in the West.
Unsurprisingly, the Spurs came back, and late in the fourth quarter they leveled the score at 76. But the Lakers responded, owning the final six minutes to come away with a 102-95 win over heavily favored San Antonio. That, in the words of Gob Bluth, was a huge mistake.
That’s because, with the win, the Lakers moved to 23-55, and now have one more win than the Phoenix Suns, who, thanks to their 13-game losing streak, are just 22-57. If the Suns lose their remaining three games, which would not be surprising at all, there will be no way for the Lakers to fall behind them in the standings, even if they also lose out.
Due to the situation surrounding the Lakers’ pick in this year’s draft, where they finish the season will have huge implications on whether or not they get to keep their pick. Back in 2015, the Sixers received a first-round pick from the Lakers (via the Suns) in the three-team trade that sent Michael Carter-Williams to the Bucks. That pick hasn’t conveyed yet, but is only top-three protected this season, in what many see as a loaded draft.
If they finish with the second-worst record in the league, they’d have a 55.8 percent chance of getting a top-three pick, and thus keeping the selection. However, if they finish with the third-worst record in the league, which is how they currently stand, their chances drop to just 46.9 percent.
The pick will be heading to Philadelphia at some point no matter what, as it becomes unprotected in 2018, but the Lakers would much rather hold on to the pick for this impressive draft class. If they’re able to add another talented youngster to their roster, along with whatever they might do in the offseason, they could perhaps be much improved next season, thus lowering the value of the pick.
Thanks to the surprising win over the Spurs, their chances of keeping their pick just took a big hit.