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Lakers vs. Sixers Preview: LeBron James downgraded to questionable with knee soreness

LeBron James could sit out for the first end of the Lakers’ current back-to-back when they face the Sixers on Thursday night.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Well, when this story originally published, we wrote that the Lakers’ injury report was as clean as it’s been this season, and that this game could be a matchup between MVP candidates in LeBron James and Sixers star Joel Embiid.

Unfortunately, on Thursday morning, the Lakers issued an update: LeBron James has been downgraded to questionable with knee soreness for the first night of this back-to-back. The team then announced pregame that he would be out, and will be day-to-day moving forward.

Original story follows.


LeBron James has been in one of the best zones of his career on the offensive side of the ball in recent weeks, and it’s kept the Lakers alive with Anthony Davis injured and Russell Westbrook struggling

But for as great as James has been, Joel Embiid has been every bit as great. Since Dec. 16, Embiid has played all 18 games for the Sixers, averaging a staggering 34.2 points and 10.6 rebounds per game while shooting 54.6% from the field, 39% from the 3-point line and 83.6% from the free throw line on 11.9 attempts per game.

Embiid has been as impressive as anyone in the league this season and, like the Lakers have needed James’ brilliance to remain afloat, the Sixers have needed every bit of Embiid’s dominant displays. The team is 13-5 during his 18-game stretch, but have done it with a myriad of injuries and players going in and out of the lineup.

Tyrese Maxey has missed a handful of games in that spell, as has Matisse Thybulle with the latter only returning from a shoulder injury that kept him out for five games on Tuesday. Add in an injury to former Laker Danny Green that has had him miss the last seven games and one to Seth Curry that rules him out for Thursday’s contest and the Sixers have experienced many of the same availability problems that the Lakers did early in the season.

The Lakers have turned the corner on the injury front with Davis’ return. With the team as whole as it has been this season, a run of strong performances could be in the offing and facing a Sixers team that is struggling with both injuries and trade rumors constantly floating over the franchise this season and it could be a perfect pairing to benefit the Lakers.

But when a player as great as Embiid is available, it’s impossible to count any team out on a nightly basis. And if there’s one things the Lakers have consistently been this season, it’s been inconsistent. Each step forward is met with a step backward shortly thereafter and Tuesday marked a positive move with the comfortable win in Brooklyn.

Can the Lakers take advantage of the situation, do enough to slow down Embiid and build some momentum to close out the road trip?

Notes and Updates

  • Additionally on the injury report, Davis is officially listed as probable but all expectations are for him to play. Kendrick Nunn remains out with his bone bruise in his knee and the only two other players listed are two-way players Sekou Doumbouya and Mason Jones, both of whom are with the South Bay Lakers.
  • Around the league, once the darlings of the NBA as the plucky team no one saw coming, the Wizards have come crashing down to Earth with Tuesday being their lowest point of the year as they blew a staggering 35-point lead — the second-largest comeback in NBA history — at home to an undermanned Clippers team.
  • Speaking of embarrassing performances, the Kings continued to be remarkably inept on Tuesday as well, losing by 53 points to the Celtics. It’s never enjoyable to watch the Celtics win, but if they have to do so, doing it against the Kings in humiliating fashion will have to suffice.

With the Lakers still on a swing of the east coast, Thursday’s contest will be another early tip-off at 4:30 p.m. PT. The game will be televised both on Spectrum Sportsnet locally and TNT nationally.

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