The Los Angeles Lakers’ rough stretch continues as now they hit the road for six of their next seven games. First up is a rematch against Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers.
Embiid and Simmons look like All-Stars this season, and the Lakers struggled mightily to contain both in the first matchup. Embiid dominated the Lakers with 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, and seven steals, while Simmons nearly notched a triple-double with 18 points, 10 assists, and nine rebounds.
The Lakers are, of course, in the midst of a season-worst five-game losing streak that could become far worse if they don’t snap it soon. Even still, the play of Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma has been extremely encouraging in recent games.
The Sixers have split their last six contests and are coming off a disappointing home loss to the Phoenix Suns. They will be determined to not make it two straight.
Simmons has burst on the scene and is the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year. After missing all of last season, he is averaging 18 points, 9.3 rebounds, 7.1 assists, and 2.3 steals. His size, strength, speed, and passing make him an extremely difficult matchup.
Next to him is veteran J.J. Redick, who remains one of the NBA’s best shooters. Even though he struggled mightily in the first matchup between these teams, Reddick must always be accounted for as he can get hot quickly.
Lonzo Ball and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will have to be locked in defensively from the outset. Whoever guards Simmons must make life difficult as he is the engine for the 76ers, and whoever sticks with Redick must be prepared to fight through screens all night.
Offensively, Caldwell-Pope has been one of the Lakers’ most reliable players outside of his awful showing against Denver. Ball had also shown some signs of life with his jumper, and looking more confident overall until he basically no-showed against the Rockets. Both will be counted upon on this night.
Off the bench, Jordan Clarkson will also be looking for a bounce-back game after a tough night against Houston, and Josh Hart continues to provide toughness and energy. That is a specialty of Sixers backup T.J. McConnell who is a pit bull on defense.
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot is good athlete and solid defender who gives Philly versatility on both ends.
The center piece of the Sixers remains Embiid, who is well on his way to establishing himself as the best big man in the NBA. The Lakers must figure out a way to defend him differently as he was simply unstoppable in the first game.
Next to Embiid is Dario Saric and Robert Covington. Both are athletic, versatile defenders who rebound well. Covington is more of a shooter offensively (40.8 percent on nearly eight attempts) while Saric is more of a slasher.
The Lakers will be reliant on Brook Lopez, particularly on defense. He must figure out some way to contain Embiid and he remains, far and away, the team’s best rim protector. Getting Embiid in foul trouble would be ideal as well, so if Lopez were going to break out of his slump, this would be the night to do so.
Larry Nance Jr. continues to do all of the dirty work for the Lakers since his return. He has 10 steals in his four games back, has rebounded well, and even put in 15 points in the last game. He still leads the Lakers in both rebounding and steals.
Brandon Ingram has been the Lakers’ best player over the last couple of weeks as he seems to really be coming into his own as a scorer. He is averaging 19.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and three assists over the last five games, and the Lakers need him to continue this level of performance.
The Lakers bench will be even more important as Kyle Kuzma is the Lakers’ leading scorer, while Julius Randle always provides an energy boost. The Lakers need that spark from them. Andrew Bogut is likely to see some minutes as well to deal with Embiid.
Three Keys To Lakers Victory:
Contain Embiid: Someone like Embiid is impossible to just shut down, but the Lakers must figure out a way to make life more difficult. Whether that means more minutes for Bogut, or attacking him more offensively to get him in foul trouble, the Lakers can’t allow him to have another performance like the first meeting.
Turnovers: It’s been a focus all season and the Lakers still haven’t figured out how to take care of the ball. Luke Walton has been trying different things in practice, but the fact remains if the Lakers want to win they must cut down the turnovers, and create some from Philly who are just as bad as the Lakers at taking care of the ball.
Get Off To A Good Start: Too often the Lakers have had to spend all game fighting back from a deficit thanks to a slow start. Doing so on the road, is always much tougher and with the energy of the young Sixers and their crowd it would be even tougher. The starters have to kick things off well for the Lakers to be successful.
Los Angeles Lakers (8-15) Vs. Philadelphia 76ers (13-10)
5:00 P.M. PST, Dec. 7, 2017
Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Larry Nance Jr.
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Kyle Kuzma, Andrew Bogut, Josh Hart, Corey Brewer
Projected Sixers Starting Lineup:
PG: Ben Simmons
SG: J.J. Redick
SF: Robert Covington
PF: Dario Saric
C: Joel Embiid
Key Reserves: T.J. McConnell, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Jerryd Bayless, Amir Johnson, Richaun Holmes
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