Lakers take on Sixers without Embiid

The Sixers trounced the Lakers by 44 points last November.

LOS ANGELES — The Lakers should be fresh coming into Friday night.

The team has had three days off to rest after an easy win over the shorthanded Atlanta Hawks on Monday night. Coming into Crypto Dot Com Arena for Friday night? The Philadelphia 76ers are going to get down with the Lakers.

Speaking of easy wins, the Sixers made it look like child’s play the last time they played each other. On November 27th, Philadelphia defeated L.A. by a whopping 44 points. At the time, the Sixers looked like one of the more dangerous teams in the league.

On March 22nd, 2024? Not so much. It’s because Joel Embiid has been out with a meniscus injury since January 30th. There is hope, however, as he could reportedly be back within 2-3 weeks. And if that’s the case, the Sixers will become that dangerous team again.

As it is, the Sixers are 38-31 and struggling to stay in the Top 6 of the East (they’re currently #8). Philly is 26-8 with Embiid and 12-23 without. His presence in the middle on both sides of the ball is sorely missed. And we know his defensive prowess and that he’s a scoring machine. One of the last games that he played was a ridiculous 70-point performance against the Spurs (which happened on the 18-year anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game).

It’s not to say that the Sixers are going to be an easy win; in fact, this is going to be a desperate team that will do anything to get the W and stay in the playoff picture. James Harden’s exit made way for Tyrese Maxey’s ascension. Maxey became an all-star for the first time in his career, averaging 25.7 points and 6.2 assists. He’s going to be the main concern for the Lakers in this game.

The Sixers have a couple more guys that are all about getting buckets in Tobias Harris and Kelly Oubre, Jr. They also acquired Buddy Hield before the trading deadline and NBA champion and veteran Kyle Lowry. But while this seems like a pretty good team with these guys on the team, they’re a little more vulnerable without last year’s Most Valuable Player.

The Lakers also have to forget what happened in their first match-up. They were thoroughly outplayed in nearly every aspect. Sixers outrebounded them by 16. Philly had 10 more assists. Lakers turned the ball over 17 times while Philly only had 5. And the Sixers had 22 three-pointers compared to the Lakers’ 7. That is definitely a recipe for a 44-point loss for Los Angeles.

But like I said earlier, Embiid was on the court for that game. The Lakers can afford to play a lot more one-on-one defensively, which would mean less open threes for these Sixers. But they also have to put in more points, which they have been very good as of late. 94 points obviously isn’t going to get it done in today’s NBA.

The Lakers have to take advantage of these situations, especially since they’re going to be back on an extended road trip in a few days. And with Houston winning 7 in a row, the Lakers have yet another team hot on their heels.

13 games left on the schedule. Can they hold on to their play-in spot? Can they even climb up into the Top 6? Or will they wilt on the increasing pressure and fall out altogether? Here comes the homestretch of the season.