After having their four-game winning streak snapped Wednesday night in Toronto, the Sixers return home, where they are 20-2 on the season. That’s the good news. The bad news (at least from a trying to win standpoint, not for entertainment purposes)? LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the 36-9, top-record-in-the-Western-Conference Los Angeles Lakers are tonight’s opponent.
Down two-fifths of their starting lineup with Joel Embiid and Josh Richardson both sidelined, I’m curious to see how the Sixers match up against the Lakers’ frontcourt. Davis is listed as questionable due to a bruised glute, but he played through the injury during both games of a back-to-back earlier this week. I’m assuming Ben Simmons is going to defend his Klutch Sports mentor LeBron. But then, the Lakers have remained consistent with playing Davis at the four for the bulk of his minutes. My guess would be Philadelphia sticks Al Horford on the Brow and hopes Tobias Harris can hold up against JaVale McGee/Dwight Howard. Harris did a decent job in a similar spot against Marc Gasol last postseason, although at this stage of his career, Gasol isn’t as much of a banger down low as the Lakers centers. I feel like Harris wouldn’t have the size to deal with Davis in the post (third in the league at 8.9 post-ups per game). It’s a tough spot.
If the Sixers are going to pull off the upset (they’re listed as 4.5-point underdogs), it’s critical they win the minutes LeBron is not on the court. The Lakers have a positive net rating in any 5-man lineup including LeBron that has played at least 25 minutes together. However, when he is off the court, the Lakers have a minus-2.4 net rating, the only player whose absence causes LA to go in the negatives. Even LeBron-less lineups that feature Davis have only met with mixed success. You don’t need me to tell you all the reasons the Lakers are better with LeBron James playing, but the Sixers darn well better win those 12 or so minutes when he takes a seat if they hope to win.
Even beyond two of the league’s top six(?) players joining forces to lead the best team in the Western Conference, the Lakers are long on interesting stories. Fans awarded Alex Caruso the fourth-most All-Star votes among Western Conference guards. Insanity. Dwight Howard has finally embraced the fact that he is a role player at this point of his career. Or is this his longest rope-a-dope yet? Kyle Kuzma is dating Vanessa Hudgens, which is a crushing blow to 2006-me. Is Kuz’s blond hair the true meaning behind Get’Cha Head In The Game?
Here's the moment a Lakers fan yelled "Will the real slim shady please stand up at" while Kyle Kuzma was at the free throw real line (first half is Blazers broadcast, second half Lakers broadcast/ Kuz's reaction) https://t.co/gfCYNCFFJe pic.twitter.com/j7uHHNLXu0— gifdsports (@gifdsports) January 2, 2020
The point is, the Lakers are the top draw in the NBA right now (you know, aside from all things Zion), and there’s a nationally-televised stage tonight to see how the Sixers measure up against them. Will being down two starters prove to be too much to overcome? Or will the power of home-court advantage conquer all? FInd out at 8:30pm.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Los Angeles Lakers
When: 8:30 pm ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic
Philadelphia: Joel Embiid (out - hand); Josh Richardson (out - hamstring)
Los Angeles: Anthony Davis (questionable - glute); Kyle Kuzma (probable - ankle); Rajon Rondo (probable - finger); JaVale McGee (questionable - flu)