LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are in Philadelphia to take on a very interesting, newly-constructed 76ers roster with Tobias Harris and Jonathan Simmons being added to the mix in the recent days. Both teams are coming off of signature wins over top echelon opponents, which is what makes this game even better. The Lakers beat the Celtics on a buzzer beater by Rajon Rondo against his old team on national television, of course. I think this game is a great confidence booster for the Lakers and I think it was a much needed spark after the trade deadline rumors surrounding 80% of their team and Anthony Davis.
Philadelphia Has Talent Galore
The 76ers won a strange game vs. the Nuggets at home Friday night. When I say strange, I mean that the 76ers leading scorer was 11-14 JJ Redick then Jimmy Butler, who scored 14 of his 24 points at the free-throw line. Going into this game, I was very curious to see how minutes and shot totals went with Tobias in the starting lineup. To no surprise, Harris was not as big of a factor on the court seeing 12 shots in this game compared to his 15.5 this season. The surprising thing is that the two “backseat” guys of the 4 remaining starters were both very productive. I do not expect this production to continue, but this is still nice to see.
Lakers with New Look
The Lakers also made a few additions at the trade deadline and I am curious to see how much they get incorporated in this game. Reggie Bullock and Mike Muscala are both NBA rotational spot-up shooters and that is exactly what the Lakers got them for. They want more shooting and they added more shooting without breaking the bank and finding a star player. Both Muscala and Bullock had been starting recently. I would be shocked if that continued, but I wouldn’t be surprised if these two guys are clear rotational players right away. I think that Bullock will eventually see more minutes, but Muscala can play the stretch five in certain situations, which will allow him to get minutes. This matchup probably isn’t the matchup for Muscala to get big run as he isn’t athletic enough to defend Harris and isn’t big enough to defend Embiid or Boban.
I do like the matchups here for the Lakers because of their length. Philly give a ton of teams problems because they have 4 guys at 6’8 or taller in the starting lineup. The good news for the Lakers is that they do as well. I expect to see Rondo on Redick and then the other 3 wings will likely just matchup with whoever guards them on the other end of the court or whoever they are closest to on defense. If one of them is playing well, I would expect the Lakers to put Ingram on any of Butler, Simmons, or Harris. Embiid is the matchup problem for the Lakers because they create a lot of transition baskets both ways, but the big bodies of McGee and Chandler help a lot.
The Sixers have listed Joel Embiid as questionable with the same illness that kept him questionable for most of the day on Friday. I would expect Embiid to play because he played Friday, but he did really struggle by shooting 4-17 from the field. If he is out, I expect to see a little Boban and probably a lot of small ball five, as the Lakers would likely be fine countering with Kuzma/LeBron/Muscala and Harris/Simmons/Scott at the 5. The Laker have struggled with shooting wings all year, especially ones that can create their own shot like Jimmy Butler. In the first matchup, Butler only took 9 shot, but he made 7 of them. I expect Butler to be an issue for the Lakers if he gets hot more than everyone besides Embiid, who got to the line 15 times in this matchup.
The 76ers are favored by 7 and I think that is a little too much. I think the Lakers are going into playoff mode and I think they are much better than most people give them credit for. Since November 1st, with LeBron James and a true starting point guard in the lineup, the Lakers are 18-9. That’s pretty good. I think the 76ers are the better team here, but the Lakers have LeBron and there is really no good answer for him. I like the Lakers here +7.