OAKLAND, Calif. — The Los Angeles Lakers will attempt to head into a nerve-racking offseason with a six-game winning streak Wednesday night when they wrap up their 2016-17 campaign on the road against the Golden State Warriors.
With more to gain by losing than winning this month, the Lakers (26-55) have beaten Memphis, San Antonio, Sacramento, Minnesota and New Orleans in succession to assure they will finish with the NBA’s third-worst record.
The latter is significant in that the Lakers will lose their first-round draft pick to the Philadelphia 76ers should it land outside the top three.
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The Lakers will head to the NBA draft lottery on May 16 with a 53.1 percent chance of falling to fourth or below.
“Obviously, it’s a unique situation, but our players’ jobs are to go out there and win,” Lakers coach Luke Walton told reporters during the winning streak. “At the end of the day, it’s a lottery anyway, so we’re gonna need some luck from the basketball gods.”
No such luck was required Tuesday night, when the Lakers ran their streak to five games. Veteran Metta World Peace, himself a first-round pick of the Chicago Bulls in 1999, contributed a season-best 18 points to the win.
The Lakers initially dealt the pick — protected at various levels for five years — to the Phoenix Suns in July 2012 in a sign-and-trade deal for Steve Nash.
When the pick didn’t meet restrictions for two seasons, the Suns dealt it to Philadelphia in a three-team trade that brought Brandon Knight from Milwaukee to Phoenix.
The restrictions on the pick end this year. If the Lakers once again retain the pick, they will automatically lose it to the 76ers next season, no matter where it lands.
With nothing to lose by winning again, the Lakers will see a Warriors team that already has begun planning ahead for this weekend’s playoff opener against the Portland Trail Blazers. The NBA is expected to announce the postseason dates and times Wednesday night.
After resting Klay Thompson in a 105-99 loss to the Utah Jazz on Monday, Warriors coach Steve Kerr announced Tuesday that he will be sitting Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala in the season finale.
Kerr got a chuckle from reporters when he made the announcement on Green on Tuesday.
“It just doesn’t make sense to play him. He’s in a good groove and he could use a day off,” Kerr said. “And what I’ve found with Draymond is if the game is meaningless, then so is Draymond.”
The game is most meaningful to Warriors forward Kevin Durant, who is trying to play his way back into shape following a 19-game absence due to a sprained knee.
Durant has played 31 and 33 minutes in his first two games back, scoring 16 points in each. He has yet to make a 3-pointer (0-for-9) in his comeback.
The Warriors (66-15) already have clinched the best record in the NBA, meaning they will have home-court advantage in any playoff series.