I hate to keep beating the same drum, but when it’s the only instrument in the room what really can I say? The Lakers are back in action tonight, facing the 76ers in another standings game which could matter come lottery night. Philly may not be “tanking”, but they’re certainly starved for talent now that Joel Embiid has been shut down for the season (joining top pick Ben Simmons) and Nerlens Noel has been traded. The team still has Dario Saric (who’s good!) and Jahlil Okafor (who’s…I don’t know what he is at this point), but the rest of this roster is holdovers from previously terrible teams and some veterans who were brought in to soak up minutes and mentor the young guys.
This makes Philly a bad team and they have incentive — maybe even more than the Lakers — to continue to be that way through the end of the season to maximize their lottery chances. Philly will get the Lakers’ pick should it fall outside the top 3 and they also have the right to swap picks with the Kings should that pick end up higher than their own. So, Philly realistically could end up with two top 5 picks in what is thought to be a loaded draft and all they have to do is continue to lose to make that happen.
Which makes tonight’s game another one of those games. The Lakers currently have a 3 game “lead” in the loss column, but a win tonight would leave that number at only 2. Considering the roster the Sixers are putting on the floor each night (they’ve lost 4 in a row and 2-8 in their last 10), that’s another team who may end up challenging the Lakers for a bottom 3 record even if the Lakers have one of the toughest schedules to end the season.
Running counter to this storyline is the fact that the Lakers played really well in their last game. D’Angelo Russell was cooking against the Suns and that effort, along with some strong flashes from Randle, Ingram, and Clarkson, got them a win. Whether that was a one game reprieve or something they can build on is the other key angle to tonight’s game. There’s a large portion of fans, I think, who want to see consistency from the young guys. Playing well needs to become a habit and leveraging the last game to spring them forward into this one should be a goal. But, as noted above, those pesky lottery standings also carry weight and while I don’t think the players care about those one bit, fans are conflicted.
So, what do you want out of this game? I think I know the answer to that, but you can let me know in the comments.
Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.