Behind the fog of the Lakers' 15-15 record, Kobe Bryant might be having the best season of his career. His offensive efficiency is through the roof, his usage is down a tick and he's hitting at a high rate from deep. If not for injuries, Pau's sudden decline and Mike Brown's damage, this team would probably be as good as everyone expected coming into the season. Tonight, the Sixers will get to pick their poison against a full-strength Lakers squad.
The Lakers' current starting lineup is doing the Sixers a huge favor. By starting Darius Morris instead of Ron Artest, the Sixers have the ability to switch their matchups. I'm not sure if Doug Collins will do it, but he should put Jrue on Kobe. What he's giving up in size, he'll make up for in ball denial. Jrue will make Kobe have to work just to get the ball, and that extra work could pay dividends later in the game, even if it's just to slow Bryant down. Put Turner on Steve Nash. Nash doesn't have the explosive speed to really cause problems for Turner, and maybe his size will help obscure passing lanes a bit. That leaves Richardson on Morris, which should be an inconsequential matchup. If Artest was in there, his size would cause problems, but I think this configuration gives the Sixers a shot on the perimeter.
On the inside, they have no answer. No answer at all. Pau is too big, and too skilled for Thad to handle. Howard makes the Sixer bigs look even smaller. I'm wondering if this will be one of the games where Collins starts Kwame to deal with a post threat. I'm hoping it isn't, because as offensively limited as Lavoy and Hawes are, Kwame is ten times worse. When he's out there, they're literally playing 4 on 5 on that end, and they can't afford to do that against a team with this kind of offensive firepower.
If the Sixers are looking for something to attack, it's Steve Nash. Nash can't handle Jrue anywhere on the floor, and he can't handle Turner in the post. Whenever you get him on either guy, you have to attack it, and I'd prefer if they attacked it in isolation. No need to bring another defender into the mix. Make L.A. double to negate the advantage, and move the ball quickly out of the double to take advantage, preferably with threes. The only other advantage I see is Thad's quickness against Pau. If you can isolate him facing the basket, Thad should be able to get by him and get to the rim.
This is a big stage for Jrue. Going home, against the Lakers, probably matched up against Kobe at least part of the time. We'll see how he handles the attention/pressure. The Lakers are at .500, the Sixers 3 games below in the midst of this hellish road trip. Both teams need a win.
The tip is at 10:30pm. This is your game thread. I'll be here throughout, join me if you can't help yourself, you just love watching the Lakers lose.