Showtime: 6:00pm PT
Plot: The Lakers are in the midst of a four game skid, with each loss more painstakingly close than the last. Hopefully, the team is getting the cure for all their ails: one of the very worst teams in the NBA.
The Sixers have lost 9 of their last 10 games, and in a ridiculous anomaly, haven't won a game within four regulation quarters since November 8th--their last four wins have come in overtime. But that's where any good news ends for Philadelphia.
Before the season, many suspected that this 76ers squad could challenge for the worst record in NBA history. After trading away nearly every single trace of NBA experience on their team, Philly looked to be under a massive rebuilding movement. Now two months into the season, the Sixers are giving major minutes to anonymous NBA neophytes like Hollis Thompson, Brandon Davies, Elliot Williams and James Anderson. They've gone 4-18 since their 4-2 start, paving their way back to the top of the NBA Draft Lottery as was their unexpressed purpose back over the offseason. Their defensive and offensive efficiency ratings have plummeted, with both at the bottom of the league. This Sixers team is very, very bad, and despite a surprising excellence from rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams, might not win 8 more games the rest of the year.
Terrible news for the city of Philadelphia. Great news for Los Angeles.
The Lakers are in a four-game tailspin, their latest loss being in Utah to the worst team in the Western Conference on a game-winning slam dunk. LA looked less discombobulated than usual, but still far from organized without Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Steve Blake. They again failed to net 20 assists and when they needed a stop the most, couldn't box out against Derrick Favors--the game was completely emblematic of who the Lakers are at the moment.
If the Lakers have Pau Gasol (illness) and Chris Kaman (ankle), all they need to do tonight is execute in order to win. The Sixers are league average at every single position except for point guard, and can be easily overwhelmed by a veteran team that simply knows what they're doing. The proof is no more evident than their road record, which is a pitiful 1-12. The key to victory will be to control Carter-Williams, always a difficulty knowing the Lakers' persistent problems locking down opposing points, and to outrebound a surprisingly decent Philly boarding squad. All this is of course highly contingent on whether or not Gasol and Kaman play tonight, though both will be game-time decisions for coach Mike D'Antoni.
Looking forward at LA's January schedule, they must win these last couple "easy" games in December, which includes tonight and New Year's Eve against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Lakers play at home just five times next months versus ten road games, a slate which could all but end their playoff hopes. I can't possibly express this enough: it's imperative the Lakers win this game, especially after blowing Friday's against Utah.
But then again, if the Lakers can't get it going here, I'm not sure what will.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino