76ers continue home stand, will host the Los Angeles Lakers on national television
On Tuesday the 76ers kicked off a five-game homestand with a very Sixers-esc win over the Pelicans. Just like we’ve seen many times before the 76ers came out the gate sluggish, and would trail in the contest up until mid-way through the third quarter. Thankfully Joel Embiid once again rescued the Sixers from another embarrassing loss, with a big help from Tobias Harris’ season-high 33 points.
The 76ers were lucky to be facing a team comprised of young guys without the experience to hold down a lead. Tonight, Philly cannot make the same mistake with Lebron James and the Lakers in the building.
Despite the obvious star power on the roster the Lakers have had a very tumultuous season filled with injuries and poor chemistry. With all the obstacles LA currently sits right at .500 with a 24-24 record, good for the 9th spot in the Western Conference standings.
Unlike some of the more recent West opponents the Sixers have faced, record does not highlight the ability of this opponent.
Philly still remains in the top six of the Eastern conference with their 28-19 record. While I continue to harp on this point, it is always worth mentioning how close the top teams in the East are to each other. All six of the Heat, Bulls, Cavs, Nets, Bucks, and 76ers are within 2-and-a-half games of each other going into tonight’s action.
The 76ers’ Struggles at Home
What’s interesting about the 76ers record is the home and road splits. Fans of the Sixers in recent years can recall their utter dominance at Wells Fargo Center, routinely finishing with a top five home record in the last couple of years.
So far this season, that has been far from the case. For the first time in months, the Sixers have a record over .500 at home after the win over the Pelicans propelled them to 11-10 on home court.
Injury Reports/The Return of Anthony Davis
As mentioned earlier the Lakers season so far has been filled with injuries to stars. One of the biggest blows for LA was losing Anthony Davis to an MCL sprain back in December. The Brow was sidelined for five weeks with the injury, a period of time that saw the Lakers go 7-10 in games without him.
On Tuesday Anthony Davis made his return against the Nets on a minutes restriction as he reconditions himself. The Lakers had planned to hold him out longer to get him back to game-ready fitness but thrust him back into the lineup after realizing the best conditioning was in actual games.
In his 25 minutes on the court, Davis scored just eight points on eight shots to go along with a pair of rebounds and four blocks.
Anthony Davis is the only notable addition to the Lakers injury report going into their matchup against the 76ers, but the former Pelican is listed as probable for the contest with the aforementioned knee issue.
For the 76ers, the injury report has lightened some compared to the last couple games with the return of Matisse Thybulle. Danny Green has been upgraded to questionable with the lingering hip injury that sidelined him for the last seven games.
Outside of that, the same injuries for key 76ers will keep them sidelined for tonight’s matchup against the Lakers. Seth Curry will miss his fourth game in a row with what is being called “ankle soreness.” Shake Milton will also miss the contest while he continues to recover from his back injury earlier this month.
Consistency from Supporting Cast Around Embiid
While Joel Embiid’s 42 points on Tuesday night was yet another example of why he’s the best player in the NBA, there were some much more encouraging signs from another member of the 76ers in the win.
Tobias Harris, as mentioned before, finished with a season-high 33 points against the Pelicans. Harris hit that mark with stellar shooting from the field, knocking down 13-of-19 shots from the field and a perfect 3-of-3 from deep. Throw in eleven rebounds to give him a double-double and you’ve got Tobias Harris’ best game of the season so far.
While many have written on Tobias’ ability to be a #2 guy on this team, games like Tuesday night remind me of just how great he can be with some decisiveness.
The biggest problem with Harris for this season comes down to keeping that confidence in his decision-making and overall consistency. With the trade deadline approaching and Tobias Harris’ name circulating, he’ll have a chance to prove his worth by stringing together some solid outings before February 10th.
While Tobias being able to step up is great for the team, the rest of the roster has also continued to struggle with consistency. You take away the contributions of the Sixers two stars and the rest of the roster struggled. Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, and Furkan Korkmaz all started, yet only contributed 26 points as a group.
Compare that to the combined 75 points from Embiid and Harris, and things get grim. While that output from Joel and Tobi may be enough against some of the bad teams of the league, it simply will not cut it against better talent like the Lakers tonight.
It is impossible to talk about a matchup against LA without bringing up Lebron, and for good reason. James is currently second in the league in scoring averaging 29 points a game. That’s more than Joel Embiid. Throw in his nearly 8 rebounds and 7 assists a night and you’ve got one of the best players in the game who’s on triple-double watch night-in and night-out.
While the Lakers record certainly proves Lebron can’t do it all on his own, LA is finally getting healthy again. James gets his partner-in-crime back with Anthony Davis who continues to condition along with Russel Westbrook who’s quietly averaging nearly 19 points a game.
With Lebron’s ability to create for others and stars coming back to his side, all eyes will be on James in his clash with Joel Embiid for the first time this season.
Dwight Howard’s Return to Philly
With the Lakers in town, a former Sixer makes his return to Wells Fargo Center. Dwight Howard was one of the more beloved members of last year’s 76ers squad. While his productivity at the backup center spot pails in comparison to Andre Drummond, there’s no denying the impact Howard had on the 76ers locker room last season.
Unfortunately for Howard, he will likely have to guard Joel Embiid at times during tonight’s game due to Anthony Davis’ minutes restriction for conditioning. While Howard has certainly had his moments in the league as an other-worldly defender, father time has restricted his abilities on both ends of the court. I predict Howard’s return to Philly will start out nice, before Joel Embiid completely dismantles him in the actual contest.
Tonight’s odds brought to you by Parx Sportsbook, the official gambling partner of The Liberty Line.
|Los Angeles Lakers||+107||+2(-109)||O 217.5(-112)|
Joel Embiid will continue his dominance of the league in his first time on national TV since his run began. Anthony Davis has had his hands full the last couple of times he’s drawn Joel Embiid, and with his conditioning still a work in progress he may struggle even more.
Bringing in out of their prime Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan wouldn’t solve anything either. Plus, Tobias Harris has quietly been playing his best ball as of late, and we all know what he did the last time LA was in town.
The lines certainly favor a close matchup between two teams with elite stars on them. While the Lakers getting Anthony Davis back and more acclimated to games does make them a formidable foe, I have to lean with the 76ers for this contest.
With the spread so close, I feel confident taking the 76ers to cover that +2, but it’ll be tight down the stretch on that bet.
Mandatory Credit: Matt Slocum.