Three Things to Know: Lakers vs 76ers – 3/23/22

The Lakers (31-41) return for a quick home game against the Philadelphia 76ers (44-27) before hitting the road again for a three-game trip. Tipoff is set for 7:00 p.m. Pacific on Spectrum SportsNet.

Here are three things to know before the game:

NO LEBRON TONIGHT
LeBron James will not play in tonight’s game as he continues to deal with left knee soreness and effusion, something that’s been a bother since late January. This will be the second time James will sit sideline against Philly.

Anytime James is absent from the lineup, it’s an obvious loss. But after Monday’s performance in Cleveland, and a chance to build off some momentum against a formidable Sixers team, the loss is much more significant given the point of the season.

Monday marked another edition of an LBJ classic in front of the Cleveland faithful, unfortunately benefitting the visitors.

Whether he was dunking on former teammates or knocking down contested shots, James was on a different level all night long. He would finish with 38 points, grab 10 rebounds, and register 12 assists, for his sixth triple-double of the season.

James’ performance was so good, he accomplished several noteworthy stat lines:
– This marked the first time James has scored 30-plus points in a triple-double vs Cleveland.
– He is the sixth player with at least three triple-doubles vs his former team in NBA history.
– His 38 points are tied for the 2nd-most in a triple-double against a player’s former team in NBA history.
– His seven 30-point games vs Cleveland are tied for 2nd-most against a former team among active players (Kevin Durant is the other vs OKC).
– At 37, James is the oldest player in NBA history to register a 30-point triple-double.
– He also leads the league in scoring (30.0) and second in the NBA in 30-point games (32) – behind only Joel Embiid (33).

STAY THE COURSE
Minus the game in Minnesota exactly one week ago, the Lakers played the final three games of the road trip with a more consistent game plan, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Over the last three games, L.A. is third in the NBA in points (126.0) and offensive efficiency (1.235).

The team has scored 20-plus points in six of their last 13 quarters, is averaging the second-most assists over the last three games (30.7) and had five Lakers finish in double-digit scoring in Toronto and Washington, and six the other night in Cleveland.

However, L.A. does have the worst defensive efficiency in the NBA over the last three games (1.209). Despite that, they’ve come away with two wins in their last three because of their defensive playmaking, specifically in the fourth quarter to close out victories.

“We want to continue to play the way we’ve been playing over the last couple of games,” LeBron said during Monday’s postgame. “We’re in a really good rhythm offensively and tonight in the fourth quarter we locked in defensively.”

Russell Westbrook has turned his game on over the last three outings, averaging 21.3 points on 53.2 percent shooting, 8.0 rebounds, and 9.7 assists, while also registering a triple-double and two straight double-doubles, respectively.

“I’m just staying committed to my work,” Westbrook said on his surge. “I’m finding ways to be able to stick to my faith and everything else will fall in place. I never waver. I’ve been consistent with my message on confidence and trying to find way that best works for our team.”

JOEL E(MVP)BIID
Joel Embiid has been the best player on Philly all season long and from a league standpoint, is one of the favorites to capture this year’s MVP award.

He leads the Sixers in points (29.8), rebounds (11.3), and blocks (1.4), is second in assists (4.3), and is third in steals (1.1). League wide he ranks in the top five in multiple categories, including second in points per game (29.8) behind only LeBron James (30.0).

In the 12 games following the All-Star break, The Process has averaged 30.8 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 3.8 assists and has recorded eight double-doubles (36 in total this season). Additionally, he has scored 30-plus points in seven of those games, adding to his league-leading 33 30-point games (LeBron is second with 32).

In seven career games against the Lakers, Embiid has averaged 30.4 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 5.0 assists, and has shot the ball well from the field (54.5 – third highest against any team) and from three-point range (40.7 – sixth highest against any team).

In their last meeting back in January, Anthony Davis played well to keep Embiid under 30 points (finished with 26). Davis will not be a factor tonight as he continues to rehab his foot injury, and with the news of LeBron, this could bode trouble for the smaller Lake Show lineup.

A counter argument would be the Lakers ability to score on the fastbreak. They lead the league in fastbreak efficiency (1.911) while Philly is middle of the league (1.654) in the same category.

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