The Los Angeles Lakers will close out a five game road trip against the Philadelphia 76ers. Both teams are playing with the future in mind and a win for either team could worsen their draft position. The Lakers trounced the 76ers a week ago behind Jeremy Lin’s 29 point performance. The 76ers starting lineup seems to change almost every game as they rotate in a mix of D-League players and undrafted prospects. The Lakers could very well earn their 20th win of the season against the 76ers.
Frontcourt: Nerlens Noel is one of the few players currently on the 76ers roster who will likely factor into their future plans. Noel is a skinny, springy center who is developing into a force on defense. He is averaging two blocks and 1.8 steals per game. Noel’s offense is limited to completing alley-oops and offensive put-backs but he managed to notch 30 points against the Clippers last week. Noel will definitely cause trouble for the Lakers in the paint.
Jerami Grant, the former Syracuse star, will likely start at power forward tonight. He’s struggled since entering the NBA, but he has a chance to show what he can do with starter minutes. Grant is only averaging 6.3 points and three rebounds per game.
Undrafted Robert Covington has been a huge surprise for the 76ers this year. He’s shown that he belongs in the NBA with his three-point shooting ability. Covington is pouring in 2.4 threes on 38.3 percent from deep. If the 76ers decide to waive Covington after this season he will surely find himself a home elsewhere in the league.
Backcourt: Since the 76ers traded away Michael Carter-Williams they haven’t been able to find a replacement. Ish Smith, the current starter, recently supplanted Isaiah Canaan. Smith has shown the ability to facilitate the offense better than Canaan who is more of a shoot-first guard. As a starter, Smith is averaging 14.6 points and 7.1 assists.
Jakarr Sampson is a relatively unknown player who starts at shooting guard for the 76ers. Sampson hasn’t made much noise as a starter and has only chipped in 4.7 points per game this year. Given the 76ers lack of depth at guard, the Lakers should have a clear advantage in the backcourt tonight.
Keys to Victory:
Strong Guard Play: Since Byron Scott opted to start Jeremy Lin alongside Jordan Clarkson, the Lakers backcourt has looked very strong. On Sunday, Jeremy Lin sat out with an illness, but hopefully he will be back in the starting lineup tonight. Lin has done a great job of orchestrating the offense which has allowed Clarkson to play to his shooting strengths. The 76ers point guards are especially undersized with both Smith and Canaan standing at just under six feet tall. The Lakers should be able to exploit their guard advantage tonight.
Perimeter Defense: The 76ers are one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the league. They attempt nearly 26 threes per game but only convert 32.3 percent of them. The Lakers need to crowd the perimeter and not allow the 76ers to get open looks from beyond the arc. If they provide ample defense pressure they should be able to stifle the 76ers offense.
Continue to Develop Frontcourt: Ryan Kelly and Tarik Black continue to get the bulk of minutes in the Lakers frontcourt. Neither player has been able to breakout yet, but the Lakers are remaining patient with them for now. Their development or lack-there-of could have ramifications for the Lakers draft. It’s rumored that the Lakers front office plan to draft a big man in June.
Los Angeles Lakers (19-53) at Philadelphia 76ers (18-56)
4:00 PM PST, March 30, 2015
Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
TV: TWC SN, NBA TV
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
76ers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Ish Smith
SG: JaKarr Sampson
SF: Robert Covington
PF: Jerami Grant
C: Nerlens Noel
Key Reserves: PG: Isaiah Canaan SG: Jason Richardson PF: Luc Richard Mbah A Moute
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: Wayne Ellington
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Ryan Kelly
C: Tarik Black
Steve Nash Retirement Press Conference (Part Two)