The Los Angeles Lakers have a meeting with the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday. The team will be looking to finally break its eight-game losing streak, most recently featuring a loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
The Lakers have regressed since injuries hit them hard. While they have looked better with D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young back, they have yet to regain the form that took them to a 10-10 record earlier this season.
They will hope to do that against a still-struggling Sixers team. The 76ers are currently sitting at 6-19, but that record does not effectively show the improvements they have recently had.
Joel Embiid, finally playing after being drafted in 2014, has been a revelation for the Sixers, en route to easily winning the rookie of the year award. His combination of size, speed, and skill from the center position has many wondering aloud how high his ceiling is. Embiid is listed as questionable for Friday’s matchup with a knee injury:
•Embiid (left knee contusion) questionable tonight; didn't take part in shootaround
•Noel (left ankle sprain) probable
— Philadelphia 76ers (@Sixers) December 16, 2016
Whether Embiid plays or not, the Lakers will have their hands full with the 76ers’ size. Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel form the other part of the young trio of big men that the Sixers have assembled.
Noel is a dangerous weapon defensively with the ability to block shots, deflect passes, and switch out on perimeter players. Offensively, he is not much of a threat outside of his role as a pick-and-roll dive man.
Okafor is the complete opposite. The sophomore center from Duke is a traffic cone on defense but talented as a go-to player offensively. His matchup with Timofey Mozgov will be one of the keys to this game. Mozgov has the size to compete with Okafor in the post without requiring double-teams. Offensively, if Mozgov sets good screens and dives to the rim, he should have some easy opportunities for baskets.
If the Lakers get Okafor in the pick-and-roll often, this could be a game for Russell to showcase his court vision and passing ability.
Defensively, this could be a chance for the Lakers to improve mightily. LA is currently the worst defense in the NBA, but they will be matched up against a Sixers team who is last in offensive rating.
With Jerryd Bayless now out for the season, Philly lacks playmaking on the perimeter. That issue will only be accentuated if Embiid is unable to play or is limited. That should play into the Lakers’ hands as long as they come out focused to perform on that end of the floor, which may be easier said than done for this group.
The game is set to tip off at 5 PM PST on ESPN.