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Lakers vs. Sixers Preview: Who’s going to stop Joel Embiid?

The Lakers will have to play a near perfect game if they want to beat the Sixers on Sunday

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NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The shorthanded Lakers have a tough task ahead of them as they face the Philadelphia 76ers for the last time in the regular season. If L.A. wants to snap their current two game losing streak, they’ll have to play a near perfect game against the Eastern Conference’s fifth seeded team, who despite multiple injuries to their key players, have played relatively well as of late.

Of course, a huge reason why the Sixers are having a pretty decent season is because of Joel Embiid who is having another MVP campaign type of season, averaging a career-high 33.5 points and 9.9 rebounds a game. With Anthony Davis’ anticipated absence on Sunday, Embiid is expected to have the advantage and it’s going to be up to the purple and gold to find ways to contain him.

That responsibility is going to fall on Thomas Bryant and Wenyen Gabriel’s shoulders, who in fairness to them, have stepped up during Davis’ absence. Bryant, who is averaging 16.8 points, and 10.1 rebounds while shooting 64.8% from the field since AD went down, has been a reliable weapon at least offensively. Meanwhile, Gabriel’s stats may not be as encouraging (7.7 points and 4.6 rebounds), but his defense is why Darvin Ham opted to go with him in the fourth quarter and overtime in Thursday’s painful loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

That said, it’s going to be interesting to observe how Ham distributes the center minutes between Bryant and Gabriel on Sunday’s primetime battle. Will he prioritize offense or defense against Embiid and the Sixers’ frontcourt? And speaking of offense, the Lakers will only have a shot in this game if they convert their three-point attempts, something they didn’t do so well against the Mavericks. The Sixers give up the third most three-point attempts in the league (11.3 a game) and they’ll likely force the Lakers to live in the perimeter on Sunday.

Aside from making most of their perimeter shots, the best chance for Los Angeles to escape with a victory is if LeBron James has one of those outwardly games where he goes for 40 or more to keep up with the Sixers’ scoring production — which is tied for seventh best in the league (maybe he can take inspiration from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who did exactly that in a winning effort against this Philly team last Thursday).

If the Lakers win the transition battle, once again get contributions from across the board to support James, avoid fouling as much as possible and contain Embiid (basically yes, play a near perfect game), then they might just sneak a victory to wrap up the weekend.

Notes and Updates

  • Before we get to the injury report, here’s a not-so-fun fact: The Lakers haven’t beaten the Sixers in approximately two and a half seasons. Their last victory against Philadelphia was in March of 2020. It sure would be nice to break this sad losing streak on Sunday.
  • The Sixers, who face the Utah Jazz on Saturday, will be on the back end of a back-to-back when they play the Lakers on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Lakers are also scheduled to play on a back-to-back as they face both the Sixers and the Houston Rockets in the next two nights.
  • Injury report: As expected, Anthony Davis (right foot stress fracture), Austin Reaves (left hamstring strain), and Lonnie Walker IV (left knee tendinitis) won’t play tomorrow.
  • Patrick Beverley, meanwhile, is questionable with his non-COVID illness, while LeBron James is probable with left ankle soreness. Scottie Pippen Jr. and Cole Swider are with the South Bay Lakers.
  • For news around the league, the NBA season is officially at its halfway point and we might already have a clear picture of which teams will be heavily involved in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, which you can read all about here. There’s also the trade deadline happening in less than a month which you can update yourself with here.

The Lakers and Sixers will tip off at 6:30 p.m. PT on Sunday. The game will be televised nationally on NBA TV and locally on Spectrum SportsNet.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani.

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