Los Angeles Lakers vs. Philadelphia 76ers: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
With the Lakers riding high after a win against the Washington Wizards, they're hoping to finish off their road trip on a high point with a legitimate winning streak before they slink their way back to Los Angeles to fight their way back to .500.
We'll see if they've still got a bit of fire in their bellies to carry over to tonight's game as Philadelphia comes off two straight losses.
Time: 6:00 EST
TV: NBA League Pass
Records: Los Angeles Lakers (10-14), Philadelphia 76ers (12-11)
Betting Line: Los Angeles -3.5
Injury Reports: Jrue Holiday, Questionable (Sprained Foot), Royal Ivey, Questionable (Strep Throat), Andrew Bynum, Out (Knees), Jordan Hill, Questionable (Back Spasms), Steve Nash, Out (Fractured Fibula), Pau Gasol, Out (Knee Tendinitis), Steve Blake, Out (Abdominal Surgery)
Key Storyline: Injuries Abound
Normally I wouldn't be one to fret over injuries leading up to a game, but if you bought tickets to this one at the beginning of the season with the anticipation of seeing a barn-burner with some of the league's best players, you're going to be sorely disappointed.
Not only are the Lakers without Gasol and Nash, two guys who have been out for a bit, but they could also be missing Jordan Hill, a big supplier of energy to the team. And not only is Philadelphia without Andrew Bynum, another long-time injured fellow, but they could be without Jrue Holiday, one of the league's most improved young players.
There's some hope that Holiday could play today after missing Philadelphia's last game against the Indiana Pacers, but it doesn't make sense for them to force him into this game if he's not feeling perfectly healthy.
It isn't any secret that the 76ers rely on Holiday for a lot, and without him they're a completely different and far less potent team.
Key Matchup: Metta World Peace vs. Evan Turner
It seems that the one place there will be an interesting matchup between players with opposite skill sets is at the small forward spot.
In all the other positions it leans rather heavily one way or the other unless Holiday misses the game, but for now we're looking at a pretty interesting battle between forwards with Turner and World Peace throwing themselves at each other.
If the 76ers are missing Holiday, they're going to need Turner and Thaddeus Young to step up and do some work, otherwise they're going to have a hard time putting points on the board.
Turner is going to have the toughest time, dealing with the continually feisty defender in Mr. World Peace, but he's shown he can get the best of good defenders plenty of times this year, especially when he hit a game-winning shot over Courtney Lee against the Boston Celtics early on in December.
If World Peace can get the better of him and force bad shots, the Lakers have a pretty good chance at taking this one home.
X-Factors: Nick Young and Antawn Jamison
In an even stranger differentiation than the fact that the Los Angeles Lakers are 2-11 when Kobe Bryant scores 30 points or more in a game, the Philadelphia 76ers are undefeated, a perfect 6-0 when Nick Young shoots above 40 percent from the floor.
Basically what that says is that when Nick "Swaggy P" Young can have a game in which he looks like an actual basketball player, the 76ers are better than when he scores eight points on 14 shots like he did against the Pacers.
Young can be a productive basketball player, but there's a lot you have to hope he does right for that to happen.
Antawn Jamison, on the other hand, is a guy who just needs the offense to be flowing at the right pace for his shots to fall.
Usually, if he gets an open look at the basket he's going to knock it down, but with the Lakers' poor ball movement that doesn't happen as often as you would imagine it should.
Los Angeles is a much better team when Jamison is on the floor and sinking shots, but there are a few external variables that are out of his own control at times that will determine whether or not his shots are going to fall.
I'll put it as simply stated as I can; this game falls on Jrue Holiday.
If the 76ers point guard is able to play and play well tonight, then the Lakers are going to have as tough a time containing him as they did with Kyrie Irving, and he's going to lead the 76ers to a victory.
If Holiday is flat after missing time with an injury, or if he just flat-out doesn't play, then the Lakers are going to win.
I've got a terrible track record with picking Lakers games this year, so if you're a betting man I wouldn't necessarily listen to my advice. However, not only do I think the Lakers win tonight, but they cover the spread as well.
Los Angeles Lakers 100, Philadelphia 76ers 95
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