Lakers win another must-lose game

This issue came up last week, when the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Philadelphia 76ers at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

We wrote then that the Lakers' win could come back to haunt them if they end up losing their top-five protected 2015 first-round pick to -- who else? -- the 76ers.

And now, a week later, here we are again.

The Lakers beat the 76ers Monday in Philadelphia, posting a 113-111 overtime road win behind a huge game from rookie point guard Jordan Clarkson (26 points, 11 assists).

However, as was the case last week, it could end up being a costly Lakers win.

For a while now, both the Lakers and 76ers have been contending for the league's third-worst record -- and if the Lakers had finished the regular season in that spot, they'd have had a very strong chance (96 percent) of retaining their top-five pick.

However, after beating the 76ers twice in two weeks, it appears the 20-53 Lakers will finish the regular season with the league's fourth-worst record, meaning they'll have an 82.8 percent chance of retaining that pick.

And as the fine folks at ESPN Stats & Information pointed out, recent history says not to be too confident the Lakers will keep the pick should they enter the lottery in that fourth spot, even though 82.8 percent seems like a solid figure.

Over the past five years, teams that had a pre-lottery position of fourth dropped to sixth on two occasions: the Golden Warriors in 2010 and Washington Wizards in 2011.

In other words, there's a realistic chance the worst season in Lakers franchise history doesn't result in the only possible reward such a season could have brought them -- a top lottery pick and the promising young player who comes with it.

Instead, with their wins over the 76ers in the past two weeks, the Lakers could end up losing that pick to a franchise that's much better at losing when it needs to lose.