Entering tonight, both the Los Angeles Lakers (26-24) and Philadelphia 76ers (32-18) could regain most of their health when the two meet up for the first time in a two-game season series.
After missing 16 games due to a groin injury, the dominant four-time NBA MVP LeBron James is on the brink of returning to the purple and gold. James was hit with the injury back on Christmas day against the Golden State Warriors.
Obviously, we know the effect of LeBron, but if you need to see it through the numbers, here you go: James currently leads the team in scoring with 27.3 PPG, rebounding with 8.3 RPG, and is also second on the team in assists with 7.1 APG. LeBron began participating in full-contact practices over the weekend.
Without LeBron James, the Lakers sit with a 6-10 record.
More good news for Los Angeles: Their second leader when it comes to points production, Kyle Kuzma, will be returning tonight against Philadelphia after sitting out against the Phoenix Suns due to a sore hip. Kuzma is currently averaging 19.1 PPG.
For the Sixers, they’ve been banged up as well, and they felt the wrath of it when they visited Denver to take on the Nuggets on Saturday — they would take a 16-point loss to the chin, 126-110.
In that game, Philadelphia were without their superstars and top-scorers in center Joel Embiid and shooting guard Jimmy Butler. They were also without Wilson Chandler. For the season, Embiid and Butler alone are averaging 46.2 PPG together.
Good news for 76ers fans, however, they’re all back in action tonight against Los Angeles.
Embiid would take off Saturday’s game against the Nuggets after having back tightness in previous play. He would take a total of six days off before the game against the Lakers tonight. The last time Embiid would make an appearance against the Lakers at Staples Center, he would power for a career-high 46 points and the 115-109 win — this taking place back on November 15, 2017.
Instead of facing off against Denver’s big-man Nikola Jokic in what received a lot of anticipation, Embiid opted to sit out, and that might have been the best thing for the possible return of LeBron James and his strength going into the paint — though LeBron’s return will most likely be delayed until Thursday against the Los Angeles Clippers.
It’ll be interesting to see the battle between Embiid and Lakers center Ivica Zubac. Zubac had a flashy 24 points and career-high 16 rebounds last time out against the Suns. Another milestone for Zubac is that he’s hit double-figures five games in a row now — the first time ever in his three-year career in the NBA.
For Butler, he’s missed the last three games because of a sore right wrist. He was diagnosed with a sprain after seeing a specialist in Los Angeles on Friday. For Chandler, he’s been suffering from left hamstring tightness, and had a great quote about it to boot.
“If we needed this game, like it was a playoff run or something like that, I could have played easily,” Chandler would tell reporters.
Just coasting through the regular season — I love it.
After building up momentum through a two-game winning streak, the lack of health would hand them the loss in Denver, and now the Sixers have the opportunity to build another streak — and this time while healthy.
The last time Philadelphia was completely healthy was back on January 17 where the 76ers would get a 120-96 blowout win over the Indiana Pacers, and this was before the season-ending injury to Victor Oladipo. It should also be mentioned that Indiana was at the time and still is a spot ahead (0.5 game lead) of the Sixers in third place in the Eastern Conference.
Before the loss to Denver, Philadelphia would get big victories over the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs — two teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.
The 76ers were 9-3 through the month in January before the loss against Denver, the No. 2 team in the Western Conference.
For the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers, this is the first meeting between the two since December 7, and this was in the year 2017. Then, the LeBron-less Lakers would get the 107-104 final-second victory to end a five-game losing streak.
The 76ers and Lakers will meet again in Philadelphia on February 10.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
CHECK THE NUMBERS
Coming into tonight, it’s a pretty balanced matchup between the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers when looking at the numbers, with both teams taking two out of the four main statistical categories. The Sixers are +3 on the offensive side tallying 115.6 PPG, however, in FG percentage they come in -0.1 hitting 47.3% of their shots. On the rebounding end, the edge goes right back to Philadelphia posting a number of 47.5 RPG — they’re a slim +0.3. On defense, they’re -1 allowing 112.2 PPG against them.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Despite not having LeBron James for 16 games this season, the Los Angeles Lakers still come in with pretty even numbers compared to the 32-18 Philadelphia 76ers. On the offensive side of things, the Lakers sit with a tight -3 disadvantage averaging 112.3 PPG. Shooting from the field, Los Angeles is +0.1 landing 47.4% of their shots. On the glass, the Lakers are -0.3 behind the Sixers averaging out at 47.2 RPG. The Lakers get their second edge on defense: They’re +1 with a number of 111.7 PA.
The balanced statistics and the homecourt advantage of the Los Angeles Lakers might have to go out of the window against the visiting Philadelphia 76ers. Not only are the Lakers without LeBron James, but the Sixers come in tremendously healthy getting back Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler and Wilson Chandler.
With all of that being said, not only are the advantages of the Lakers being left off of the table, but Los Angeles also needs to be placed on blowout alert. Without LeBron, the Lakers currently have no star-power to compete with the loaded Sixers talent. Embiid alone has the fire-power to beat the Lakers, things will get scary for L.A. tonight with Butler and Ben Simmons included.
With Philadelphia being the -6.5 favorite, I’d definitely take them to cover the spread, Like I previously mentioned, I’m feeling this game will most likely be a scenario where the Sixers blow the Lakers out of the water — Lakers just don’t have the talent to compete with a Philadelphia right now, especially without LeBron. With the O/U, take the under, I don’t think Los Angeles will supply the appropriate points production for the over — not without LeBron, not against Philadelphia.