The Los Angeles Lakers were scorched in the desert on Wednesday night, losing to the Phoenix Suns by 36 points in a game that was never very close. It was utter dominance from Phoenix, who took advantage of a tired and often disinterested Lakers team that was on the second night of a back-to-back after losing a one-point heartbreaker to the Sacramento Kings the night before.
The team’s struggles were difficult to watch at times, with turnovers and poor defensive rotations seemingly being more common than made shots. Rookie forward Brandon Ingram, who shot just 1-7 on the night, thought the All-Star break may have had something to do with the lack of focus (via Mark Medina of the Orange County Register):
“Guys were fatigued,” said Ingram, who had nearly as many turnovers (two) as he did points (three) on 1-of-7 shooting. “That mentality was shifting about going on a break.”
It’s not surprising that the Lakers would be looking forward to a little rest and relaxation. After all, the NBA season is a brutally long marathon, and the past few months haven’t been kind to the young team. Still, head coach Luke Walton wasn’t pleased with what he saw as a wasted opportunity:
“Don’t waste opportunities, whatever the score is,” Walton said. “There’s a reason we play a lot of young guys because we want them to experience these things, to learn from it, to be able to play individually and as a group. If we’re going to go out there and do that, even if we’re down by 30, what’s the point? We’re not learning anything from that.”
The silver lining, of course, is that the race to the bottom just got a little closer, with the Lakers (19) now just one game ahead of the Suns in the win column. Dropping from the third to second-worst record in the league would carry with it a roughly nine percent bump in odds of landing a top-three pick in this summer’s draft.
If the Lakers pick is not one of the first three selections, it conveys to the Philadelphia 76ers. Furthermore, if the Lakers pick lands in the top three this summer, then the first round pick they owe the Orlando Magic in 2019 will instead become two second-round selections.