Coming off a thrilling victory without Joel Embiid and James Harden Monday night over Miami, the Sixers head to the Crypt tonight for their first of two games in the building at the start of a three-game West Coast trip. Neither Embiid nor Harden is listed on the injury report, so expect all hands on deck and a better performance than when they were all on the court together Sunday against the Raptors.
As for the Lakers, Anthony Davis (foot) and Kendrick Nunn (knee) remain out, while LeBron James (knee soreness) and Talen Horton-Tucker (ankle sprain) are both listed as questionable. Despite the injury designation, LeBron has been suiting up to try and keep this sinking Lakers ship afloat. Los Angeles currently sits at 31-41, good for ninth place in the Western Conference. The Lakers are three games ahead of the Spurs (currently in 11th) to at least remain in the play-in tournament picture.
King James is averaging 33.9 points per game in the month of March, propelling him just ahead of Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo for the league scoring title (James - 30.0, Embiid - 29.8, Antetokounmpo - 29.7). To put in perspective just what LeBron is doing right now, here is the list of players who have averaged 30 points, eight rebounds, and six assists in a season:
Players to average 30-8-6 in a season— Josh Eberley (@JoshEberley) March 22, 2022
Baylor ‘61 - 1st team
Oscar ‘61 - 1st team
Oscar ‘62 - 1st team
Oscar ‘64 - MVP, 1st team
Oscar ‘65 - 1st team
Wilt ‘64 - 1st team
Wilt ‘66 - MVP, 1st team
Jordan ‘89 - 1st team
Westbrook ‘17 - MVP, 1st team
2022 LeBron averaging 30-8-6…
The fact that LeBron is doing this at 37 years old is remarkable, as is playing 37 minutes per game to keep this moribund Lakers roster from falling completely in the gutter. I know people are tired of talking about LeBron for any number of reasons, but what a season for the all-time great.
James’ new teammate this year, Russell Westbrook, has not been having a great season, to put it mildly. Just a week ago, Westbrook was getting openly clowned on the court by Minnesota’s Patrick Beverley and Karl-Anthony Towns.
Russell Westbrook airballs the corner 3, Karl-Anthony Towns searches for the wind in Target Center pic.twitter.com/NunuGH9S8p— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) March 17, 2022
However, to his credit, in the last three games following that meeting with the Timberwolves, Westbrook has produced arguably his strongest stretch of play of the season (Los Angeles winning two of those).
Russell Westbrook last 3 games:— StatMuse (@statmuse) March 22, 2022
He is +29 in that span. pic.twitter.com/c3Q0NKCscA
Returning to the Sixers, we’d expect the stars to get back on track and render the Raptors performance a one-game blip. The bigger question mark will be whether the bench guys who shined in Monday’s win over Miami brought their hot hands out west. Either Shake Milton or Furkan Korkmaz shedding what has been a disappointing season and ending the regular season strong would be a very welcome development for a Sixers roster in need of reliable wing depth. The other quiet tournament is which past-his-prime veteran center, Paul Millsap or DeAndre Jordan, receives the final rose from Doc Rivers to spell Joel Embiid. Like every backup quarterback in Philadelphia Eagles history, Charles Bassey has been the apple of fans’ eyes lately in a “How could he be worse?” kind of way. Alas, Bassey was optioned back to the Delaware Blue Coats prior to this road trip, after not getting a look even in the game Embiid sat out.
As of this writing, the Sixers are 7.5-point favorites on the road, up a couple points after Embiid and Harden were officially left off the injury report. The Sixers easily won, 105-87, back in January in Philadelphia, a game in which LeBron didn’t suit up, but Anthony Davis did. LeBron is sometimes capable of magic even in this late stage of his career, but even for all its flaws, this Sixers roster is simply better. Any normal level of effort and shooting variance should see them on top. In the middle of a crowded top-four of the Eastern Conference, every win matters here down the stretch of the regular season.