Philadelphia at L.A. Lakers
Time: 9:30 PM (CT), ESPN
Spread: PHI -3.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Philadelphia 76ers snapped a two-game skid last outing with a 109-105 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. Now, they face the other team to inhabit the Staples Center in the second game of an ESPN Wednesday night double-header.
The Sixers are 3.5-point favorites in a game with a relatively high over/under set at 220.5 points according to NBA oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
The Philadelphia 76ers are thriving thanks to two of the game’s best young talents: Rookie Ben Simmons and the oft-injured Joel Embiid. Embiid leads the team in scoring at 20.9 points per game, while also averaging 10.8 rebounds and 2.54 blocks/steals per game. The biggest surprise, perhaps only to some, has been just how good and dynamic Simmons has been. He is putting together what some are calling the best all-around rookie season ever.
With averages of 17.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 7.5 assists, Simmons is serving a point-forward, and his court vision is nothing short of incredible. At 6-foot-10, he has the size to see over defenders and consistently make the right passes. His passing has jumpstarted the career of Robert Covington, who now appears locked into one of the best front courts in the NBA. Covington has averaged 16.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.39 steals/blocks per game while posting a PER Of 18.7. The Sixers have three players with a PER above 18, and the team is 7-6 this season, third in the Atlantic Division.
J.J. Redick has also fit seamlessly in transitioning from having been a Clipper the past several seasons. Signed for $21 M, Redick has provided the outside shooting this team desperately needed to get the most out of the double-teams that Embiid and Simmons regularly draw. Perhaps most astoundingly, the Sixers have done all of this with top pick Markelle Fultz injured and possibly out for quite a while. There is no timeline on his return from a shoulder injury, and they said simply that “Slowly we’re getting his shoulder stronger.”
While Fultz may not drastically impact this team’s fate this season, the Sixers are eager to see what the No. 1 overall pick from Washington can provide once he’s healthy. He did play four games this season and posted six points and 1.8 assists per game, but there is not much that can be meaningfully withdrawn from such a small sample size, obviously.
The Sixers added so much talent in one season, and the most crucial of all has been the healthy Embiid. Embiid appeared in just 32 games last season, but when he started without Jahlil Okafor next to him, the Sixers posted a win-differential of a 52-win team. That is clearly still a little higher than this club can attain to this season, but it also cannot be counted out. As the Sixers continue to gel around Simmons and he matures as a player, this could be the team no top seed wants to draw in the first round come playoff time.
The L.A. Lakers snapped a three-game skid with a 100-93 win over the Phoenix Suns last outing. L.A. still has a lot of questions to answer defensively, and Lonzo Ball is painfully learning the ropes as a point guard. The Lakers are clearly a better team with Ball on the floor, but his shooting stroke has been nothing short of atrocious thus far through his young NBA career. The UCLA product is shooting just 31.3 percent from the field and 25 percent from three. The Lakers have a balanced attack and score 103.3 points per game, but with the way the team has been defending, that just has not been enough.
The Lakers have a host of decent individual defenders, but communication on that end of the court has been lacking, and Brook Lopez really is not a defensive-5 if the perimeter defenders do get beat off the dribble. Sure, Lopez tallies 1.7 blocks per game, but he is not an overwhelming threat and that number is somewhat misleading. Julius Randle continues to struggle defensively as an undersized-4. The Lakers have turned to rookie Kyle Kuzma at power forward, and he has thrived thus far.
Kuzma is averaging 15 points and seven rebounds per game in 31 minutes a night, and if not for his defensive assignment tonight, Ben Simmons, he would very much be a Rookie of the Year Candidate. As it stands, Kuzma should make the First Team All-Rookie, but we will get a look at the cream of the crop against him tonight.