Tonight at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Sixers (0-18) will host the Lakers (2-14) in a battle of NBA bottom-dwellers. Both teams have some young talent, but unlike the Lakers, the Sixers don't have a veteran leader such as Kobe to help mentor the up and coming stars. Jahlil Okafor has consumed the headlines in Philadelphia papers over the recent days, but Kobe Bryant will likely steal that spotlight for tonight as the 20-year veteran will make his final appearance in his hometown of as an NBA player. Bryant announced his retirement on Sunday and will end his impressive career following the conclusion of the season. The biggest story of these two teams meeting is the draft pick at stake. At 2-14, the Lakers hold the second to worst record in the NBA, ahead of the Sixers. Philadelphia is hoping that the Lakers gain some sort of momentum this season and finish outside of the bottom three in the standings, thus conveying their upcoming top three protected first-round pick to the Sixers. As things look now though, the Sixers may have to wait another year to use that pick towards their rebuild process. Heading into tonight, Philadelphia has a 53.3% chance of winning this game, according to a stat shown on Sportscenter this morning. It's the first game all season they have been favored to win.
Philadelphia returns home after dropping six straight on the road, but has remained competitive in each of those contests, holding fourth quarter leads in five of six. That being said, those leads slipped away courtesy of bad shot selection and turnover issues. The Sixers tied the NBA record for worst start in their 92-84 loss to the Grizzlies on Sunday, despite fighting back from big deficits to take a 76-71 lead with 7:38 to go in the game. Thanks to eight Sixers turnovers, Memphis went on a 15-1 run to end the game and hand the Sixers their 18th loss of the season. Isaiah Canaan led Sixers scorers with 16 while Hollis Thompson and Robert Covington had 12 a piece.
Meanwhile, the Lakers come off of a four-point loss at the hands of Indiana following Kobe's retirement announcement. Bryant scored 13 and had the opportunity to tie the game with a late three, but instead it was an air-ball, wide left of the basket. His 13 points came on 4-for-20 shooting from the floor. Pacers forward Paul George overcame two late jumpers by Bryant to get the Lakers close by scoring his teams' last 11 points. Here's what Kobe had to say in anticipation of his career coming full-circle with his final game in Philadelphia:
"It's going to be beautiful," Bryant said. "So much of my game was developed from Philadelphia." [ESPN.com]
- The Sixers will honor Moses Malone, who currently remains fifth on the all-time NBA rebounds list
- Los Angeles has won the last three games against the Sixers and three consecutive games in Philadelphia.
- Philadelphia has a 53.3% chance of winning this game, according to a stat posted on Sportscenter
- Kobe Bryant is shooting just 30.5% from the floor after a 4-for-20 night against the Pacers on Sunday
- The Lakers 41% shooting percentage is ranked 29th in the NBA
- Jahlil Okafor's shooting has dipped after the Sixers last two games. Though his percentage sits at 46.2, he went just 7-for-23 combined against Houston and Memphis
- The Sixers lost five fourth quarter leads on their road trip and rank 26th in the NBA with 23.1 points per game in the final 12 minutes
- Kobe Bryant has averaged 23.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists against the Sixers during his career.
PG- Isaiah Canaan- 11.6 ppg. 1.8 apg
SG- Jakarr Sampson- 5.7 ppg. 2.5 rpg
SF- Robert Covington- 13.1 ppg. 3.6 spg
PF- Jerami Grant- 10.3 ppg. 5.0 rpg
C- Jahlil Okafor- 17.5 ppg. 8.2 rpg
Injuries- Tony Wroten (right ACL tear, out), Kendall Marshall (right ACL tear, out), Joel Embiid (broken right foot, out),
Carl Landry (torn ligament right wrist, out) Nerlens Noel (right knee tendinitis, flu-like symptoms, questionable)
PG - D'Angelo Russell - 10.4 ppg. 3.0 apg
SG - Jordan Clarkson - 15.6 ppg. 2.4 apg
SF - Kobe Bryant - 15.5 pgg. 4.1 rpg
PF - Julius Randall - 11.4 ppg. 8.6 rpg
C - Roy Hibbert - 8.4 ppg. 2.1 bpg
Injuries - Lou Williams (personal reasons)
Location: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic
Brandon Apter, contributor to Sixerdelphia.com