The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off their eighth straight defeat, losing to the Brooklyn Nets, 107-97, on Wednesday night. The Lakers allowed Brook Lopez, Sean Kilpatrick, and Bojan Bogdanovic to score 20-plus points apiece. Tonight in the second game of their seven-game road trip they take on the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Sixers are coming off a 123-114 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night. Sixers coach, Brett Brown, opted to start both Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor alongside one another for the first time all season although both are natural centers. Okafor had the better night, finishing with 17 points and four rebounds while Embidd finished with nine points and six rebounds. Forward Robert Covington finished with a team-high 26 points and 12 rebounds. The Lakers will have their hands full taking on a young Sixers team.
Philadelphia’s backcourt is anchored by Sergio Rodriguez and Gerald Henderson. Rodriguez returned to the NBA this past summer after spending a few years playing overseas for Real Madrid. His play has seemed to fit in well with the Sixers; he’s currently averaging nine points, three rebounds, and 6.7 assists per game. He gives the team a veteran presence, that knows how to win, on a very young team. Henderson has also been a nice addition to the Sixers. He’s averaging 9.6 points and 2.6 rebounds per game this season. In Wednesday’s loss to the Raptors, he finished with 16 points and five assists. Both Rodriguez and Henderson will give the young Lakers’ guards a test on what its like to play against veteran competition.
Nik Stauskas and T.J. McConnell provide depth off the bench for the Sixers. Stauskas is averaging 9.5 points per game. He’s shooting 45.4 percent from the field this season so the Lakers must be aware of where he is at on the court when he is in the game. McConnell is quick when he is on the floor. Even though he does not provide much scoring (3.7 points per game), his strength is getting his teammates involved (4.6 assists per game). Whoever is guarding him must make sure he does not consistently dribble his way into the paint and find open teammates.
The returns of D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young have finally brought back some normalcy to the Lakers. After struggling in his first game back against the Knicks (three points), Russell rebounded nicely against the Kings (17 points) and Nets (11 points). Tonight the team will need him to score points and play solid defense to end their losing streak. Young has played well since coming back from a calf strain. He seems to be finding his rhythm with each game that passes, and the Lakers really need to him to be playing at the level he was before his injury. He will have his hands full tonight with Henderson, who is a solid defender.
The trio of Lou Williams, Brandon Ingram, and Jordan Clarkson have seemed to regress (except Williams) a little since the beginning of the season. Williams has been the Lakers best offensive player this season, averaging a team-high 19.2 points per game. He will be counted on to provide scoring firepower tonight in hopes of coming out with a victory. Even though Clarkson has been scoring the ball well, his turnovers have been more noticeable (two per game). He seems to be dribbling more often instead of making quick decisions like he was at the beginning of the season.
Joel Embiid anchors the Sixers frontcourt. When he has been on the floor, he has played extremely well, averaging 17.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Timofey Mozgov will have his hands full defensively guarding Embiid. Mozgov must focus on making things difficult for him. Robert Covington and Ersan Ilyasova join Embiid in the frontcourt. Covington has played well in a starting role for Philadelphia. He’s averaging 9.5 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game. He gives the Sixers a big body that is pretty quick on his feet. Ilyasova, who came to the team in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder at the beginning of the season, is solid at the power forward spot. In his last 10 games, he is averaging 15.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. His ability to shoot from the outside makes him a tough matchup for most other forwards.
Jahlil Okafor, Dario Saric, and Hollis Thomspon come off the bench for the Sixers. Okafor was placed in a reserve role at the start of the season as Embiid embarked on his NBA debut. He has still made an impact scoring the ball, averaging 11.6 points per game. Saric has steadily gotten better as the season has progressed. Learning a new style of basketball isn’t always easy, but he has gotten more comfortable leading to an average of 9.6 points per game. His versatility is also a matchup problem for opposing players so the Lakers must play well defensively on him.
Mozgov and Deng have been playing really well for the Lakers as of late. Deng, in particular, has seemed to find his shooting stroke. In his last three games, he has 22, 16, and 11 points. After struggling to begin the season, it’s been a relief that Deng is starting the find his rhythm scoring the ball. Mozgov has also played well, including a 12-point outing against the Nets. Tonight, he will need to focus more defensively because he will be guarding good offensive big men in Embiid and Okafor.
Julius Randle, in his past two games, has not played well at all. He scored two points against the Sacramento Kings and six points against the Nets. He needs to play well for the team to have success. When he is aggressive and efficient, he takes pressure off of Russell, Williams, and Clarkson from bearing much of the offensive load. He needs to use his strength against the bigs’ of the Sixers.
Ingram has yet to perform consistent offensively this season. The Lakers would benefit greatly if he can start scoring on a nightly basis. Hopefully, he can use his size against whoever is guarding him to score the ball. Larry Nance Jr. and Thomas Robinson give the Lakers high energy off the bench. They both are extremely active and fly to the ball. They will need to do more of that if they want to help the team end their eight-game losing streak.
3 Keys to Victory
Rebound The Ball
The Lakers must be able to control the boards against the Sixers. In their last game against the Nets, they surrendered 71 rebounds, which is a recipe for a loss almost any night. It is going to be tough against a lengthy Sixers frontcourt, so that’s why it’s imperative to go back to the basics and box out your opponent.
Defend The Three
The Sixers on average make about 10 three-pointers per game. Philadelphia has players who can really stretch the floor, so it will be important for the Lakers to stay put on their defensive assignments. If they don’t, it could be a long night once again.
Play With Pride
The Lakers must find it within themselves to play with some pride, so they don’t extend their losing streak to nine games. I know their confidence is a little down right now, but they only way for it to go back up is to get a win and to do so they need to dig deep and play hard.
Los Angeles Lakers (10-18) Vs. Philadelphia 76ers (6-19)
5:00 P.M. PST, December 16, 2016
Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected 76ers Starting Lineup:
PG: Sergio Rodriguez
SG: Gerald Henderson
SF: Robert Covington
PF: Ersan Illysova
C: Joel Embiid
Key Reserves: Dario Saric, Jahlil Okafor, Hollis Thompson, Nik Stauskas, and T.J. McConnell
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Nick Young
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Julius Randle
C: Timofey Mozgov
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr., Lou Williams, Thomas Robinson