Preview & Chat: The Philadelphia 76ers

Darius Soriano —  December 16, 2012

Records: Lakers 10-14 (12th in the West), 76ers 12-11 (8th in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 106.1 (6th in the NBA), 76ers 99.2 (24th in the NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 102.1 (14th in the NBA), 76ers 100.9 (11th in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Chris Duhon, Kobe Bryant, Devin Ebanks, Metta World Peace, Dwight Howard
76ers: Evan Turner, Jason Richardson, Nick Young, Thadeus Young, Kwame Brown
Injuries: Lakers: Pau Gasol (out), Steve Nash (out), Steve Blake (out), Jordan Hill (questionable); 76ers: Andrew Bynum (out), Jrue Holiday (doubtful), Royal Ivey (doubtful)

The Lakers Coming in: Coming off their first win in over a week, the Lakers can only hope they can start to build some momentum at the tail end of their road trip. And while the Wizards game didn’t necessarily inspire confidence that this team is playing substantially better, there are some positives to take away from that game. Jodie Meeks is evolving into a solid contributor on both ends of the ball with his long range shooting and scoring ability desperately needed off the bench. And Devin Ebanks is also starting to find a role as a combo wing whose length and live legs are proving useful on offense and defense.

And, for what it’s worth, reinforcements appear to be on the way. Reports state that Gasol is pain free when running on a treadmill and the hope is that he’ll be back for Tuesday’s game vs. the Bobcats, but if not then by Saturday’s game in Oakland. Reports also state that barring a setback, Steve Nash hopes to start practicing next week. Nash will likely need to get a few practices under his belt before he can see game minutes, but just having him as an active member in practices can help this team start to develop the chemistry they’ll need as the season advances.

There are other issues to address, of course. But getting this team healthy is the number one goal right now and the closer they get to that point the closer we can get to truly knowing what this team is made of.

The 76ers Coming in: The Sixers have lost two in a row and five of their last seven. Not only have they been struggling to get wins lately, like the Lakers they are also dealing with some injury issues of their own. Jrue Holiday is doubtful for today’s contest with a sprained foot he suffered against the Bulls on Wednesday. He’s officially a game time decision but it’s a good bet he doesn’t play (or, if he does play that he’s not up to his normal standard). And, of course, Andrew Bynum is still out with complications in his left knee after suffering a setback while bowling a few weeks ago.

The injury to Holiday is important because he’s having a very good season. He’s averaging 18 points and 9 assists on the season and many believe he could be an all-star this year. He is their floor general and, with Bynum out, clearly their top player so having him out or diminished is quite the blow. As for Bynum, the Sixers have done well to keep their heads above water with him out, but it’s obviously a huge disappointment that he’s not yet played a game for them this year. After having the “Kobe procedure” on his knees over the summer, Bynum suffered a bone bruise in his rehab and then suffered the aforementioned setback a few weeks ago. There is no timeline for his return but the hope is that he’ll be on the court at some point in early January. The Sixers are taking their time and being cautious in their handling of this as they see Bynum as a big part of their future. But for a team that had such high expectations coming into the season, the injuries and loss of key players to acquire Bynum has left them scrambling somewhat.

76ers Blogs: Philadunkia is a very good site (and has a great name). Give them a read for all your news and notes on the Sixers.

Keys to game: This is the last game of what turned out to be a tough road trip for the Lakers and the last home game for the Sixers for some time (10 of their next 11 are on the road), so expect this to be a highly contested game by two teams that are looking to get a key victory.

Defensively, the Lakers must find a way to defend the arc against Jason Richardson and Nick Young while slowing Evan Turner and his desire to attack off the dribble. Per ESPN Stats and Information, Turner ranks as the 4th best isolation scorer in the game and whether it’s Kobe or Ron that guards him, he’ll look to attack off the dribble and get into the paint where he can either score for himself or kick out to shooters like Richardson and Young. The Lakers must be able to help on Turner and recover to the arc where both Richardson and Young have quick triggers and will fire without hesitation.

Also expect the Sixers to push the pace and look to take advantage of the Lakers in transition. They have several players that like to get out and run and without Bynum in the lineup, the Sixers have speed advantages at nearly every position. The Lakers will need to balance their desires to attack the offensive glass with getting back against the advancing ball as players like Thad Young, Turner, Dorell Wright, and Richardson look for easy baskets off Laker misses.

Offensively, the Lakers must get back to moving the ball. And I’m not just talking about Kobe. Nearly every Laker wing is thinking shot first when they make the catch and it’s leading to the ball stalling out way too often. The ball must be swung from side to side and into the post more often in order to keep the defense off balance by forcing them to make multiple rotations. If the Lakers decide they’d rather attack in isolation or take the first open shot available to them, they’ll find a loaded up Philly defense ready to snuff out their initial action. But if they instead focus on ball and player movement, they can exploit a solid Sixer D who has good athletes but not the most aware defenders (outside of a few core players).

With the Lakers heading home after this game, there’s no better time to start a mini-streak by getting their 2nd consecutive win. With Holiday either out or hobbled, they’re facing a team whose best playmaker (who also doubles as the player most able to take advantage of their biggest defensive weaknesses) shouldn’t be as much of a threat (if one at all). This should translate to the Lakers being able to snuff out their offense simply by being attentive and and playing with energy. Do that, and they’ll be in this game until the end even if their own offense struggles. Add in a team based offense and they should be able to take this game.

Here’s hoping we can see the good version of the Lakers this afternoon and that they can have a happy plane ride back to Los Angeles.

Where you can watch: 3:00pm start on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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