The Los Angeles Lakers will be without Pau Gasol, who is fighting to shake off an upper respiratory infection, on Sunday night against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Chris Kaman, who suffered a sprained ankle in Friday’s loss to Utah, remains a game-time decision. If Kaman cannot go, Jordan Hill will surely start, and Robert Sacre will see significant time on the floor. Regardless of whether Kaman is passed fit, Hill may be injected into the starting lineup.
With Shawne Williams, Wesley Johnson, Jodie Meeks and Jordan Farmar all penciled into the starting lineup, the Lakers will continue to suit up any and all available players. Injuries and lineup changes are nothing new for this team.
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Sunday is a bit different, though. The Lakers have lost four games in a row and are a season-worst four games below .500. However, LA hosts the next four games at home, and the competition is not exactly unbeatable: Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Utah and Denver. None of those four teams have a winning record, and Milwaukee, Utah and Philadelphia have the three worst records in the NBA this season.
Even shorthanded, the Lakers need to protect the home court and regain some swagger.
First up, the 8-21 Philadelphia 76ers come to Staples Center on Sunday night. The 76ers have lost nine of the last 10 games. This is a must-have game for the Lakers.
The Lakers’ leading scorer, Nick Young, played last season with the 76ers, and he admitted playing his old team provided extra motivation.
“They’ve been talking trash, just text messages and stuff,” Young said at Saturday’s Lakers practice.
Young has now scored double digits in points in 16 straight games. Since permanently moving to the bench on Nov. 12, Young has provided the Lakers with 10 or more points in 21 of 22 games. He leads the team in scoring at 15.9 points per game, and the 28-year-old LA-native is averaging 21.0 points per game over the last seven games.
For the short-handed Lakers to be successful, Young will need to continue providing points off the bench, but that alone will not win games. The Lakers need to improve their defense.
The Lakers have allowed at least 100 points in each of their last 10 losses. Conversely, they have only allowed over 100 points in two of their last 10 wins. Scoring is helpful, but defense wins games.