First of all, happy new year to all of you. I’ve said this before, but those of you who come to this site for Lakers’ information and analysis, contribute in the comments, and generally support our efforts are what make me running this site rewarding. For your support — be it continued or new — I thank you all.
As for today’s game, the Lakers are back in Los Angeles after a three game road trip which saw them go 1-2. Losses to the Grizzlies and Hornets were almost all but forgotten, however, after that win against the Celtics in the trip’s final game. That win has the potential to spark a little run of wins, too, as the Lakers enter a (somewhat) friendly part of their schedule. After playing the 76ers today, they play the free-falling Suns (who just lost Eric Bledsoe for the season), and have 6 of their next 7 games at home.
It is not inconceivable the Lakers could play the Warriors on Tuesday owners of a 3 game winning streak. Sure, it’s a bit sad to discuss a three game win streak as a big deal, but considering the team has 6 wins all season, it would be their best stretch all season by a wide margin.
Of course, no win is a given for this team so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. After all, the Lakers have already lost to the Sixers, giving them their first win of the season. Further, the Lakers will be short handed tonight:
Kobe will not play tonight vs. Philly because of a sore right shoulder.
— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) January 1, 2016
Missing Kobe is not a minor thing. Not with how he’s been playing in the last few weeks and how much he’s been able to help control the flow of the game when he’s been on the floor. NBA games can often turn on a key 5-10 minute stretch and Kobe has been instrumental in the team’s recent wins by helping impact the game in those stretches. Him being out doesn’t just mean finding a player or two to help fill the void in production, but to have someone who can impact the game by drawing the defense’s attention and be a ballast for the team’s attack.
While it might be a lot to ask of one of the young players to actually fill this role, this is an opportunity for one (or more) of the Russell, Randle, or Clarkson trio to make his mark on this game. All three have the ability to positively impact games for short stretches and not having Kobe in the lineup gives them more leeway to try and seize the reins and do just that.
The other key to getting a win versus the Sixers will be managing the pace and winning the battle of the three point line. Philly isn’t particularly good at many things (that’s how you only win 3 games while losing 31), but they are 11th in steals, 1st in blocks, and 6th in 3-point field goal attempts on the year. This team has the ability to create turnovers and will try to exploit openings around the arc. Considering the Lakers can be sloppy in their three point defense and can struggle in transition defense at times, these are areas they will need extra focus in.
Ultimately, though, there is no more of a winnable game than one against Philly. Despite them already beating the Lakers this year, they are the worst team in the league, record wise, for a reason. This is a game the Lakers should be looking forward to — for revenge and to get their first 2-game win streak of the year. Let’s see if they can get it.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.