LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers have nothing meaningful left to play for this season, so they’ll settle for the next best thing: ruining other teams’ seasons.
They did just that on Sunday night, defeating the Phoenix Suns -- a team in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race for one of the final four seeds -- 115-99 behind a monster performance from Chris Kaman (28 points, 17 rebounds, six assists).
"We want everybody to hate us by the end of the year," coach Mike D’Antoni said before the game.
"We did get New York, and now we’re trying to get Phoenix, and then we’ll try to give them a favor by getting Portland. We’ll have our chances, so hopefully we can do that."
Despite being eliminated from the playoffs for weeks and it being in their best interest to rack up lottery balls, Los Angeles (25-48) can take solace in the fact that they might have contributed to another team’s end-of-season misery.
How it happened: Los Angeles jumped out to a 26-15 lead in the first, holding Phoenix to 7-of-28 shooting (25 percent) and 0-of-9 on 3-pointers. Phoenix’s reserves blitzed the Lakers with a slew of 3s to momentarily take a one-point lead in the second, but L.A. responded with a 25-6 run to head into the half up by 18.
The Suns’ first possession out of intermission was a shot-clock violation, setting the tone for the second half. Things got interesting a bit in the fourth, but the game was never really in question.
What it means: Does anyone understand this team? Just look at their past four games -- they blew out two playoff contenders (the Knicks and Suns) and lost to two ball clubs with no shot at the postseason (the Milwaukee Bucks and Minnesota Timberwolves). Granted, they were on the road for their two losses, but their recent effort has been visibly different depending on the caliber of the opponent. This season doesn’t make any sense.
Ryan Kelly continued his impressive play, scoring 17 points, grabbing five boards and running productive high-low actions with Kaman.
L.A. held Phoenix to just 38.5 percent shooting, including 22.2 percent from deep.
The Lakers turned the ball over just 13 times.
Misses: After D’Antoni pointed out that Wesley Johnson was "struggling" and not having an impact on recent games, Johnson couldn’t find any type of rhythm (zero points, 0-for-4 shooting) and played only three minutes in the second half.
While they couldn’t miss inside the arc, the Lakers weren’t efficient behind it, shooting just 5-of-18 (27.8 percent).
Stat of the game: 56. That’s how many points the Lakers scored in the paint, which is where this game was won. L.A.’s big men controlled the battle of the trenches, punishing the undersized Suns for not doubling or sending help earlier.
Up next: The Lakers host the Portland Trail Blazers (48-27) on Tuesday and look to play spoilers against another playoff team. The Blazers, who are just 6-8 in their past 14 games, are looking to maintain their loose grasp on the West’s 5-seed.