After a disappointing loss in Utah, the Los Angeles Lakers return home to face the Philadelphia 76ers in the first of a four-game home stand. With the Lakers four games under the .500 mark, this is perhaps the most important stretch of the season as they hope to remain in playoff contention without Kobe Bryant. While Jordan Farmar recently returned from a hamstring tear, Pau Gasol (upper respiratory infection) and Chris Kaman (left ankle sprain) are game-time decisions.
Frontcourt: Although the Sixers’ frontcourt has struggled, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young have played well. While many didn’t expect Philadelphia to win eight wins for the entire season, Hawes’ impressive shooting late in games have helped the 76ers steal some games. For the first time in his career, Hawes has received consistent minutes and has delivered — averaging 15.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 3.1 assists while shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc.
A week ago, Thaddeus Young reportedly requested a trade and has been in potential trade talks for Houston’s Omer Asik. While he has refuted those reports, these rumors certainly haven’t affected his game. In the past five games, the seven-year forward out of Georgia Tech is averaging 20.4 points and 6.6 rebounds while shooting nearly 60 percent from the field. Although Young is averaging close to his career numbers this season, the biggest improvement comes from the three-point line where he is shooting nearly 45 percent.
Backcourt: In only his first season, Michael Carter-Williams has been impressive so far — averaging 17.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 7.8 assists. The 11th pick in this past year’s NBA Draft is the current favorite for Rookie of the Year honors and has already drawn comparisons to Sixers legend, Allen Iverson. While he was out with a knee infection for seven games, the 76ers lost all of those games and showed how important the rookie is. Despite being out for nearly two weeks, Carter-Williams hasn’t missed a beat since his return as he’s averaging 17.0 points and 11.0 assists.
Joining Carter-Williams in the backcourt is the leading scorer for the Sixers, Evan Turner. Despite all the trade rumors, Turner is having the best season of his four-year career. The former second overall pick in the 2010 Draft is averaging 19.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.0 assists. However, he has been dealing with knee soreness and his status for Sunday’s game is questionable. If Turner is unable to play, Tony Wroten is expected to replace him in the starting line-up.
Keys to Lakers’ Victory:
Limit Offensive Rebounding: Over the past four games, the Lakers have had difficulties limiting teams to one shot. With Philadelphia being a top-10 offensive rebounding team, Los Angeles will need all five players to box out their man since Gasol and Kaman are game-time decisions.
Ball Movement: While the Sixers are a strong rebounding team, they give up the most points in the league (111.7). With the return of Farmar, the Lakers should be patient running their offensive sets and look for the best possible shot every possession.
Force turnovers: With a very young roster, the 76ers also lead the league in turnovers (17.7). While the Lakers don’t exactly force turnovers, they should consider some backcourt pressure and traps on the 76ers’ guards to create fastbreak opportunities for themselves.
Philadelphia 76ers (8-20) at Los Angeles Lakers (13-17)
6:30 PM PST, December 29, 2013
Staples Center, Los Angeles, Ca
TV: TWC SN
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
76ers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Michael Carter-Williams
SG: Evan Turner
SF: Hollis Thompson
PF: Thaddeus Young
C: Spencer Hawes
Key Reserves: SG: Tony Wroten SG: James Anderson PF: Lavoy Allen
Lakers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Jordan Farmar
SG: Jodie Meeks
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Jordan Hill
C: Robert Sacre
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