March 31, 2014

Don't tell Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott that his team's fans want to lose Friday night against the Phoenix Suns.

It's uncertain whether or not Kobe Bryant will play and it's also not clear if his presence will help or hurt his team's chance at a victory.

What is clear is that there is plenty of incentive for the Western Conference's worst teams to lose when they meet Friday night at Staples Center.

Los Angeles (14-54) owns the league's second-worst record and its fans would like to finish with that mark since the franchise will enhance its chances of a top-three lottery pick that way. If the Lakers fail in the lottery and slip to the fourth pick, the choice will go to Philadelphia.

Surpassing Phoenix (18-50) in the standings would hurt the Lakers' lottery odds. These teams meet twice in the next six days after splitting their first two meetings.

"As far as I'm concerned, we're not in a weird position," Scott said. "We play Phoenix and we're trying to win the game."

The Lakers have lost three straight to fall to 2-4 on this eight-game homestand as they played without Bryant in Tuesday's 106-98 loss to Sacramento. The retiring veteran continues to battle shoulder problems and Scott termed Bryant's chances of playing Friday at "50-50."

If Bryant doesn't play, Scott said he will give Metta World Peace his second straight start.

Bryant is the NBA's worst shooter among qualifying players at 35.6 percent overall and 27.5 percent on 3-pointers. The Lakers have won four of their last 11 games he has missed.

Phoenix had a five-game win streak over Los Angeles end the last time these teams met, a 97-77 defeat Jan. 3 that Bryant sat out. He has not faced the Suns this season, has missed six of the last nine matchups and hasn't played in a victory over Phoenix since he made 1 of 8 shots for four points and eight turnovers in a 91-85 win Feb. 12, 2013.

The Lakers expect to have forward Brandon Bass back after he sat out Tuesday because of a corneal abrasion in his right eye. He may have to wear goggles.

"If they say I have to wear the goggles, I don't have no choice, right?" Bass said. "But if they say I don't have to, then I don't have to, then I ain't gonna wear 'em. But we'll see how it goes."

The Suns fell for the fourth time in five games, 103-69 at Utah on Thursday. They shot a season-low 34.1 percent and finished with their lowest point total.

''We played passive aggressive in the first half," coach Earl Watson said. ''In the second half, we played timid. We couldn't hit a shot. We couldn't stop their runs. That isn't acceptable, that can't happen.''

Brandon Knight scored a team-high 17 in his third start since missing 21 games with a strained groin. He has totaled 55 points and 24 assists this season versus Los Angeles with his first career triple-double in a 120-101 rout Nov. 16.

Rookie Devin Booker was held to seven points on 3-of-14 shooting Thursday after he entered averaging 23.6 in his first eight games in March.

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