The 76ers suffered another lottery-friendly loss to the Los Angeles Lakers Monday night.
Jordan Clarkson's layup with .09 seconds left handed the Sixers a 113-111 overtime setback at the Wells Fargo Center. That enabled the Sixers to stay close to New York Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves in the battle for the league's worst record. The team that finishes last at season's end has the greatest chance at the top pick in the draft lottery.
Just don't ask Sixers coach Brett Brown about the benefits of losing.
"I sit back and look at going to Cleveland [Sunday], holding someone to 87 points," Brown said. "You close out a Denver Nuggets game by holding them to nine points [in the fourth quarter] on their home court. So at some point, you keep answering the question, but I say look at the effort and the guys defensively.
"We had that bad second period with [giving up] 34 points, but short of that we competed."
Both teams did. There were seven lead changes and nine ties in a game that turned out to be a thriller.
Sixers rookie Nerlens Noel knotted the score at 111 with 12.9 seconds remaining on a four-foot jumper. After that play, former Episcopal Academy standout Wayne Ellington fed Clarkson for the go-ahead basket before Sixers swingman Robert Covington misfired on a desperation 63-footer at the buzzer.
"I attacked a little bit and J.C. made a heck of a cut," Ellington said. "He was wide open under the rim and I got it to him."
Clarkson, a rookie point guard, finished with game highs of 26 points and 11 assists to go with six rebounds and three steals. Ellington scored seven of his 20 points in the overtime. Noel had 19 points, a game-high 14 rebounds, 4 assists and blocked a shot to lead the Sixers.
But this was a good loss for the Sixers (18-57), who have been sacrificing wins for a top lottery pick.
They are 31/2 losses behind the last-place Knicks (14-60) with seven games remaining. The Timberwolves have the league's second-worst record at 16-58. The Sixers have the third-worst mark, right ahead of the Lakers (20-53).
They will get the Lakers' first-round pick in the draft if Los Angeles finishes outside of the top five in the lottery. The chances are slim, although Monday's result makes it slightly more likely.
"I don't care about that stuff," Lakers coach Byron Scott said. "It's all about us trying to get better as a basketball team and trying to win games. Whatever happens after that happens. We can't control that."
The Lakers also defeated the Sixers, 101-87, on March 22 at the Staples Center.
On that night, Jeremy Lin torched the Sixers for 29 points. The Lakers held the backup point guard out of Monday's contest. Asked for the reason, Scott said, "he's not feeling well." Lin was later listed as out with an upper respiratory infection.
Lin wasn't the only player held out of this pivotal game.
Brown said Jerami Grant would start at small forward during his pregame news conference. However, Grant was a late scratch with an upper respiratory infection. Luc Mbah a Moute, the Sixers' best on-ball defender, was sidelined with left shoulder soreness. And Jason Richardson missed the game with a left knee injury.
The Race to the Bottom
The 76ers have the third-worst record in the NBA. The Lakers have the fourth-worst, making it unlikely that the Sixers will get the Lakers' 2015 first-round draft pick, which is top-five protected.
New York 14-60
L.A. Lakers 20-53