Sunday, December 16, 6:00 PM (EST) at Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
10-14 (3rd Central, 12th West)
12-11 (4th Atlantic, 9th East)
TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic FM | Live Stats
NOTE: The Comcast Network HD is now on XFinity® Channel 856
Updated: 2:55 PM, December 16, 2012
MATCHUP TO WATCH
C Dwight Howard vs. The Sixers’ Frontcourt
Joining the Lakers via blockbuster four-way trade this summer, center Dwight Howard has lived up to the lofty expectations placed upon him by the LA faithful. Despite seeing his scoring average drop to 18.2 points per game (down from 21.9 over the last two seasons), the 6-11 big man is third in the league in rebounds (12.0 RPG) and fifth in blocks (2.6 BPG). A dominant force on both ends of the floor, Howard is one of just 11 players in league history to average at least 18.0 points and shoot at least 58.0% from the field in a single season. He’s accomplished this feat in three seasons (2007-08, 2009-10, 2010-11) previously and is on pace to do so again this season; should he do so, he would join Shaquille O'Neal (6x) as the only other player to accomplish this more than thrice.
Despite suffering through rebounding woes early in the season, the Sixers’ frontcourt has out-boarded its opponents in four of its last five games. Philly’s bigs will have their hands full Sunday, as they look to slow down Dwight Howard, who’s averaging 18.7 points (55.8 FG%) and 14.4 rebounds per game over his team’s last nine.
The key, as always with Dwight Howard, is to make him earn his points from the free-throw line, as the hulking center has shot under 50% in each of the last two seasons (49.2 FT% this season). Of course, “hack-a-Dwight” is nothing novel. The prep-to-pro center has led the league in free-throws in four of the last five seasons and again holds the distinction 24 games into the 2012-13 season. Howard attempts nearly as many free throws (10.7) per game as he does field goals (11.1). Surely, the Sixers will look to avoid giving Howard any easy buckets inside and will, instead, make him work for his points at the line.
PG: C. Duhon | SG: K. Bryant | SF: M. World Peace | PF: D. Ebanks | C: D. Howard
When the 2012-13 season began, many expected the Lakers, coming off the summer acquisitions of future Hall of Fame floor general Steve Nash and perennial All-Star big man Dwight Howard, to be the Western Conference’s answer to the 2012 Champion Heat. 24 games into the season, though, the Lakers have struggled to stay above .500, holding a winning record for a mere 24 hours this season (from November 20 until November 21). They’ve lost four of their last five games, with the only win coming Friday over the Washington Wizards, who hold the league's worst reocrd (3-18). They are just 5-9 under new head coach Mike D’Antoni, who took over for Mike Brown after he was relieved of coaching duties just five games into the season (1-4).
On The Mend
Part of the reason the Lakers have struggled as mightily as they have this season is that they’ve played all but 50 minutes of the 2012-13 season without Steve Nash, who suffered a non-displaced fracture of his fibula after colliding with rookie Damian Lillard in a game against the Trailblazers in early November. Additionally, his primary backup, Steve Blake, has missed the last month of action with an abdominal injury and subsequent surgery; he’s expected to miss the next 5-7 weeks. Forward Pau Gasol continues to rest with tendinitis in both of his knees. In the absence of those three, the Lakers start point guard Chris Duhon and forward Devin Ebanks, along with Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, and Dwight Howard. Bryant, a 14-time All-Star is currently struggling with back spasms; his status is officially "day-to-day", but he played through the injury in a Friday night win over the Wizards. Reserve big man Jordan Hill is also fighting back spasms; his forced him to sit on Friday.
Beware The Mamba
Kobe Bryant is still Kobe Bryant. The seemingly ageless NBA legend continues to put up MVP numbers well into what should be his twilight years. The 34-year-old leads the league in scoring (29.3 PPG) for the first time since 2006-07 (he fell one-tenth of a point shy last season, with 27.9 PPG). He’s also posting the best shooting percentage (47.4 FG%) of his career, despite attempting more threes per game (5.7) than in any season since 2005-06. His effective field-goal percentage (52.6%) and true shooting percentage (59.9%) are both career highs. It goes without saying, Bryant is one of the most deadly scorers the game of basketball has ever seen. In 1,089 games since the beginning of the 1999-2000 season, Kobe Bryant has failed to score in double-figures just nine times.