I am swamped in my everyday life, so this will be short. Sorry, ya’ll.
The Lakers have lost 8 in a row and even though I think they are closer to getting back on track than those consecutive L’s say, they actually have to start winning games for that to matter. Tonight in Philly against the 76ers offers a nice opportunity to get that win even though they offer their own set of of issues for the Lakers to overcome.
On Philly’s side, this is really about how much their bigs can impact the game to make the lives of their perimeter players easier. Joel Embiid is finally healthy and showing why he was such a coveted prospect before injuries put him on the shelf. Embiid not only offers two way ability, but has flashed the type of offensive game which can be a centerpiece for a really good team. He offers range to above the arc and has a smoothness to his post game which isn’t often seen in a prospect so young.
Behind Embiid are Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel. Both have their limitations — Okafor on defense (and sometimes in “trying”) and Noel on offense beyond diving hard + dunking in the P&R — but both can also be dangerous players when playing to their strengths. This sounds simple and obvious, but the Lakers must be personnel aware and ensure that they are responding accordingly based on which big is on the floor. They cannot let Okafor find his stride working easily in the post while not attacking him on the other end in the P&R to make him defend in space. Just as they cannot let Noel get rolling to the hoop and get a head of steam to finish above the rim. They must tag him on cuts and be sharp in their weak side rotations when he is the screener.
Offensively, it’s easy to say that the Lakers must get back to moving the ball but more needs to happen than just saying they need to pass more. In order to pass more, the Lakers need to set better screens, make harder cuts, and attack more off the dribble to force help. The way you open up passing lanes is to threaten the defense with something and make them react and account for what you’re doing to them. If the Lakers simply stand still or don’t move with purpose, they will find themselves having to play a lot of isolation ball and doing so against a short shot clock.
I don’t want to put too much emphasis on this single game, but it would be really nice for the Lakers to get back in the win column vs. Philly. They are, record wise, the worst team in the East and while they have some talent, they are shallow on the perimeter and don’t have many good offensive players outside of Embiid and Okafor. The Lakers can get out in front of this team and then force them to play from behind. Without a lot of top level perimeter players, making up ground doesn’t come so easy.
But to achieve this, the Lakers must play with discipline and effort. As I wrote earlier, they really are close to finding their stride. And they should have their full rotation back for the first time in weeks. There’s no better time than now to start to turn things around.
Where you can watch: 5pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.