The Sixers defeated the Utah Jazz Saturday, 118-117. They won’t have much time to celebrate this close win however, as they face off against the Los Angeles Lakers for the second and final time Sunday.
Back in December, the Sixers beat the Lakers 133-122 in their first matchup in Philly. Since then, the Lakers went from bad to worse. They’re deep within the Western Conference’s basement, sitting at 13th place — outside of the NBA’s play-in tournament.
Unfortunately, Anthony Davis won’t be available this time around as he recovers from a foot injury. The Lakers listed LeBron James as probable (as they do almost every game), and Patrick Beverley as questionable with an illness. Austin Reaves, Reading, PA native Lonnie Walker, and Scotty Pippen Jr. have been ruled out in advance.
There isn’t too much to talk about the Lakers outside of LeBron, who is putting together another stellar season. He’s continued to defy Father Time at 38-years old, averaging 29 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game.
Russell Westbrook, who is still on the Lakers somehow, has an early case for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award. The Lakers have needed every bit of offensive firepower with Davis out, and he’ll be called upon to keep up with the Sixers’ offense. Westbrook has averaged 15.4 points, 7.8 assists, and 6.4 rebounds to go along with a career-low in minutes per game.
The Lakers rank middle of the pack in both offensive and defensive rating. Their 20th in offensive rating, while having the NBA’s 17th-best defense. The Sixers’ offense continues to slowly trend upwards in offensive rating, currently ranking eighth-best in the NBA. They continue to rank within the top four in defensive rating, trailing the Grizzlies, Cavs, and Bucks.
The Sixers are coming off a scrappy game against the Utah Jazz that most will probably want to forget about. Shake Milton, in particular, was one of the few silver linings; producing a solid 17 points, four rebounds, and two assists, in 29 minutes of play. He continues to excel in a crucial contract year.
Outside of a few off-games, James Harden has played tremendous basketball since his return from injury. He finished the Utah game with 31 points, six rebounds, and 11 assists. Harden was a crucial part of keeping the Sixers afloat in a game where most of the roster looked lost down the stretch.
The Sixers have yet to update their injury report since it’s the end of a back-to-back, but Tobias Harris was questionable before being ruled out ahead of the Jazz game. Pay attention closely to his status in the coming hours.
Combining the past two games, and the Sixers have underperformed against lesser teams with the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder. You can never rule out a team with LeBron James on it, but it would restore some confidence to see them simply blow out an inferior team.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Los Angeles Lakers
When: 9:30 pm ET, Sunday, January 15th
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBA TV
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic