Showtime: 4:00 pm PT
Plot: It's really hard to be worse than these Los Angeles Lakers. I mean, really, really difficult. The Cleveland Cavaliers weren't just that the other night--they were worse than just half of the Los Angeles Lakers. Actually, a third.
Just five Lakers succeeded in beating Cleveland on Wednesday night, with teammates falling down quicker than Cavs GMs (too soon?). In the last two games, Jodie Meeks, Nick Young and Jordan Hill all left games with injury, while Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake managed to soldier on despite further in-game problems. Oddly enough, Steve Nash emerged no worse for wear and should start tonight in Philly. It couldn't have been a stranger 24 hour stretch for the Lakers.
Against the Sixers, LA will have as many as nine healthy players, which includes the newly signed Shawne Williams, who is once again on the team with a 10-day contract. However, even the word "healthy" has its caveats, as Jordan Hill is questionable tonight with a neck sprain and both Farmar and Blake will be dogged with injuries from the preceding two games. The Lakers have been run ragged on this three game road trip, strained by a lack of personnel and an ever-changing rotation. It's sure to affect both sides of the floor, with their top three scorers all sitting out tonight and a somehow declining defense that's given up 100 points in every game but one in 2014 (when they gave up 99 vs. Utah). Let's not be fooled from a courageous win on the road against one of the worst teams in the NBA--the Show just broke a seven game losing streak. They shouldn't be instantly favored against Philly, even considering a slightly superior record. That being said, can the Sixers take advantage of this team?
The answer is...I'm not sure. Philadelphia is losers of four straight and seven of the last eight. They're a fairly horrendous defensive squad (24th in defensive efficiency and dead last in points surrendered per game) and a sometimes futile offense that depends on Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young and rookie Michael Carter-Williams to put up any points. However, it was essentially this very same team that defeated the Lakers soundly in STAPLES Center late in December. Young, Hawes and Evan Turner teamed up to throw down 66 points in LA that night, as well as holding the Show to just .369 shooting. It was truly one of the most disgraceful home losses in a season full of them, a sobering statement to say the least.
Coming off of one of the strangest games in recent memory, anything that happens tonight in Philly couldn't shock the Lakers. They'll need to play with the same amount of effort as they did in Cleveland and not allow the same type of monumental near-comeback. However, they'll be fighting the same uphill battle as they've struggled with the past week or so, with an incredibly short bench that could only get shorter if guys like Farmar, Blake and Nash go down once again with injury. Let's just hope we don't have to crack open the rule book towards the end of this one.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino