The Lakers are back at .500 and will look to kick off 2013 with a win. Their opponent tonight is the 76ers, who went 4-11 in December. The last time the these two teams faced off, the Lakers triumphed 111-98 in Philly. The 76ers were without their star player, Jrue Holiday, in that game so we’ll see if he can make a difference tonight.
2012 was a drama-filled year for the Lakers: starting with the firing of Mike Brown, abrupt hiring of Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson, Steve Nash leg injury and locker room discontentment as a result of the Lakers early season struggles. As we remember the tumultuous year that was 2012, we look forward to greener pastures for 2013. Hopefully the Lakers can get on track and start the new year with a resounding win.
Frontcourt: Andrew Bynum has yet to suit up for the 76ers since he was traded from the Lakers this off-season. In his place, Lavoy Allen starts at the five, but he plays like a four and is undersized even for the power forward position.
Since Dwight Howard would clearly have the physical advantage over Allen, the 76ers will likely play Hawes at the five for the majority of tonight’s game. Hawes is a true seven footer who is offensively skilled. He’s no slouch on defense either as evidenced by his 1.1 blocks, but his rebounding leaves much to be desired. Dwight Howard should be able to dominate the paint tonight.
The leading rebounder on the team is 6’8’’ power forward Thaddeus Young. Young is having a stellar year with 15.2 points on 53.6% shooting and 7.2 rebounds per game. He will give Gasol trouble due to his speed, but on the flip side, Gasol will have a clear size advantage over Young.
Backcourt: Former UCLA Bruin Jrue Holiday returns to his college city tonight. Holiday has had the best season of his four year career with averages of 18.6 points, 8.9 assists, 4.1 rebounds, 1.1 threes and 1.3 steals per game. His court vision has improved and he is regularly finding the open man; he’s already recorded 10 assists eight times this year. Without a doubt Holiday will need to be limited by the Lakers defense.
Veteran Jason Richardson is a sharp shooting two guard who knocks down two three pointers per game. He’s just returning from a back injury so he’ll have a tough time staying with Kobe tonight. At the three, Evan Turner is also having a career year. He’s been more consistent this year on offense and his playmaking has also improved. Turner is undersized for a small forward and will have trouble matching up with MWP.
Off the bench, Nick Young is a scoring guard who is never shy about getting his shot off. He dropped 30 points on the Lakers on December 16th and will need to be limited tonight.
Keys to Lakers’ Victory:
Hold the 76ers Under 95 Points – The 76ers average 93.2 points per game, while the Lakers give up 100.2 points per game. Hopefully we’ll see some Lakers defense to ring in the new year. If the Lakers can hold the 76ers to under 95 points, they should come away with the victory.
Control the Boards – The 76ers rebound by committee. Nobody on their squad averages more than 7.2 rebounds per game. That being said, the Lakers need to box out and prevent the 76ers from getting offensive rebounds. One would expect the Lakers to lead the league in rebounding with all their size, but they haven’t done a great job of boxing out this season.
High Percentage Shots from Kobe – Since Nash has returned to the lineup, Kobe Bryant has shot 52.2% from the field. He’s also averaging 33.7 points in that stretch. At the age of 34, Kobe isn’t slowing down and is actually enjoying one of the best shooting years of his career. As long as Kobe continues to play within the offense and allow Nash to get him the ball with room to operate, then expect to see Kobe’s point per game average to go up. The combination of Nash and Bryant has the potential to be one of the best backcourts in the entire NBA.
Philadelphia 76ers (14-17) at Los Angeles Lakers (15-15)
7:30 PM PST, January 1, 2013
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: Time Warner Sports Network
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
76ers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: Jason Richardson
SF: Evan Turner
PF: Thaddeus Young
C: Lavoy Allen
Key Reserves: C: Spencer Hawes GF: Nick Young GF: Dorell Wright