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Sunday, December 29, 9:30PM (EST) at Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

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by Max Rappaport, Sixers.com
Posted: December 29, 2013

LOS ANGELES -- It’s a game that Philadelphia fans make a point to circle on their calendars every season – one of two annual meetings between the Sixers and Lakers. 

There are a number of reasons why this interconference matchup is so special to some: there’s the storied history of Finals series between the two teams (1950, 1954, 1980, 1982, 1983, and 2001), and there’s the simple fact that the Lakers, who’ve won a league-leading five championships this millennium, play the role of heel for most NBA fans outside Southern California.

But this year’s game will be a little different. For just the fourth time in 35 meetings between the two teams dating back 1996, Kobe Bryant will not suit up for the Lakers.

The Philadelphia native has missed L.A.’s last five games with a fracture in his left knee. His most recent affliction came just six games after his return from an Achilles injury that sidelined him for seven months. 

In Bryant’s absence, Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni has relied upon a surprising group of wing players. 

Former lottery pick Xavier Henry was signed by the Lakers in September to compete for a roster spot during training camp. The Kansas alum made the cut and has appeared in all 30 Lakers games this season, starting five of them. His 10.4 points per game rank fourth among L.A. players with 10 or more games played this season.

Former Sixer Jodie Meeks has also helped fill the void left by Bryant. The fifth-year guard out of Kentucky leads a three-point heavy L.A. offense in threes made per game (2.1), converting from beyond the arc at a 40.7% clip.

After starting just 21 games for the Phoenix Suns last season, former fourth-overall pick Wesley Johnson has already matched that total this year. The 6’7” swingman has put together his most productive campaign to date, averaging 7.9 points on 50.0 effective field-goal percentage. His previous high in eFG% was 47.3, which he posted in his rookie season with the Timberwolves.  

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A Much-needed Respite for L.A.
The Lakers have played seven of their last nine games on the road and have lost all but three games during that stretch. Sunday’s game marks the first of four straight at Staples Center before a stretch in which Los Angeles will play 10 of 11 contests on away from home.

Young’s Impressive Stretch
Thaddeus Young has scored at least 25 points in each of his last three games. Over that stretch, he’s averaging 28.3 points (58.2% from the floor; 11-of-12 from beyond the arc), 8.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 2.3 steals.

Tale of the Tape

Category Sixers Lakers
PPG Evan Turner – 19.3 Nick Young – 15.9
RPG Spencer Hawes – 9.0 Pau Gasol – 9.4
APG Michael Carter-Williams – 7.7 Steve Blake – 7.7
SPG Michael Carter-Williams – 3.1 Jodie Meeks – 1.1
BPG Spencer Hawes – 1.5 Wesley Matthews – 1.3