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Trio of Sixers Bigs Take Center Stage Against Lakers on ESPN

By Brandon Apter, Sports Talk Philly editor  

The Philadelphia 76ers (6-19) host the Los Angeles Lakers (10-18) tonight at the Wells Fargo Center in front of a national television audience on ESPN. Originally, the was going to be the first time that top picks Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram would go head-to-head, but with Simmons nursing a foot injury, the focus remains on the Sixers big man logjam, which could get even more complicated tonight. The Lakers come into the game losers of eight in a row while the Sixers have won two of their last three games.

Brett Brown announced 90 minutes prior to tip-off that he plans on starting Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor together again tonight. Embiid will play at the four while Okafor mans the five spot. Joel remains on a 28-minute restriction. Nerlens Noel is listed as questionable. Yesterday, we learned that point guard Jerryd Bayless would miss the remainder of the season after undergoing successful surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left wrist. The Sixers signed the 28-year-old veteran

Last Meeting:

The Sixers and Lakers split two meetings last season with Philadelphia winning the first one 103-91 and Los Angeles emerging victorious in the second matchup 93-84. Former Sixer Lou Williams led the Laker offense with 24 points, 12 of which game in the fourth quarter, while the Sixers got 15 points and 12 rebounds from Nerlens Noel. Los Angeles outscored the Sixers by seven in the final quarter to finish off their rally and win.

Big Man Logjam:

It'll be mentioned a couple of more times during the preview, but on Wednesday, we got to see Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor start for the first time together. Okafor looked energized and active while Embiid had a hard time getting settled playing the power forward position. Jahlil scored nine points in the first quarter while the two were paired and Embiid only scored nine all night, not hitting his first shot until the second quarter. On Thursday, we talked about how that for better or for worse, this center surplus is here for the time being.

“I think for once, since I've been a Sixer, I didn't trust the process tonight,” Embiid told reporters after Wednesday's loss to the Raptors. “I was just standing. I wasn't moving. I was just standing on the perimeter. I wasn't active on defense.” [CSNPhilly.com]

While Embiid's comments may not directly be linked to the time he spent on the floor with Okafor, it's clear that he was unhappy with his performance. Tonight, Nerlens Noel is likely to be added to the mix, so expect plenty of different pairings from Brett Brown to experiment with what works best.

The trio of big men shouldn't make people forget about the energetic Richaun Holmes, who may not play at all when all three primary centers are healthy. Also, Ersan Ilyasova was relegated to a bench role on Wednesday while Dario Saric played small forward and struggled, committing five fouls in just 13 minutes of playing time.

Rookie Report:

While Joel Embiid may not be playing as many games as the rest of the rookie class, he's the clear favorite to win Rookie of the Year at this point. In 16 games this season, Embiid is averaging 17.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 block per game, leading the rookie class in each of those categories. During the Sixers last game, a loss to Toronto, Embiid was paired with Jahlil Okafor for the first time as a starter and he struggled, standing around on the perimeter a lot on offense and not being too active on the defensive end. He finished with a season low nine points, but still managed six rebounds and tallied a career-high five assists. The Lakers big men could provide the Sixers another opportunity to pair centers, so expect Embiid to be a bit more aggressive if that's the case.

Brandon Ingram, this No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft, has had a bit of a tough start to his NBA career with the Lakers. He's playing just under 27 minutes per game, averaging 7.9 points on 35.3 percent shooting from the floor and just 29 percent from beyond the arc, which is surprising considering his long range success prior to being drafted. In the Lakers' last game, a loss to the Nets, Ingram scored nine points, shooting 3-for-9 from the floor to go a long with a rebound and an assist. He's shooting 34.7 percent through eight games in December.

Draft Implications:

When the Sixers traded Michael Carter-Williams to the bucks in 2014, they received a protected Lakers pick from the Suns in the three-team deal. After two drafts and the pick not conveying, this season could very well be the year that Philadelphia gets that pick and potentially could draft two players in the top 10 or perhaps even the top five. With 2017 being a pretty deep draft class, that's good news for Sixers fans. At this point in the season, the odds have the Lakers pick ending up between 5-7, which would make it convey to the Sixers. If LA does end up in the top-3 again though, the pick will become unprotected in 2018.

Previous Game Rewind:

Sixers: Philadelphia's brief two-game win streak came to an end on Wednesday with a 123-114 loss to the offensively potent Toronto Raptors. Robert Covington celebrated his 26th birthday by scoring 26 points and grabbing 12 boards while DeMar DeRozan scored 31 to power the Raptors offense. They were able to pull of the win with him on the bench for the entire fourth quarter.

Lakers: Los Angeles suffered their eighth straight defeat in their last game against a 7-17 Nets team on the road. The Lakers led 76-75 after three, but Brooklyn outscored them by 11 in the final 12 minutes to earn the win. Former Sixers Lou Williams and Nick Young scored 16 and 14 respectively to lead the Laker attack while Timofey Mozgov finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Three Nets starters scored 20 or more. Bojan Bogdanovic had 23, former Delaware 87er Sean Kilpatrick contributed with 22 while Brook Lopez scored 20.

Matchup Preview  |  December 16th, 2016
Los Angeles Lakers
(10-18, 4-11 Away)
  Philadelphia 76ers
(6-19, 4-12 Home)
Stats Comparison
104.4 Points Per Game 98.2
111.0 PPG Allowed 105.9
.444 Field Goal % .436
.342 3-Point % .360
.770 Free Throw % .726
20.4 Assists 22.9
44.4 Rebounds 43.4
3.5 Blocks 5.8
8.5 Steals 7.8
15.6 Turnovers 16.3
Projected Starters
D'Angelo Russell Point Guard Sergio Rodriguez
Nick Young Shooting Guard Gerald Henderson
Luol Deng Small Forward Robert Covington
Julius Randle Power Forward Joel Embiid
Timofey Mozgov Center Jahlil Okafor
Injury Report
Jose Calderon (out)
  Jerryd Bayless/wrist (out)
Tarik Black (out)
  Joel Embiid/knee (will play)
    Nerlens Noel/ankle (probable)
    Dario Saric/knee (probable)
    Ben Simmons/foot (out)

Game Information:

Tip-off: 8:00 p.m.

Location: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic


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