Posted: August 28, 2013
Game #8 in our game-by-game preview of the PHILA BIG Game Plan is the Sixers’ matchup with what is perhaps the most enigmatic team in the league, the Los Angeles Lakers.
Going into last season, many believed that a Heat-Lakers meeting in the NBA Finals was inevitable. The Heat were fresh off of a 46-20 season and championship victory in 2012, and the Lakers had just put the finishing touches on the NBA’s most impressive offseason overhaul since “The Decision” two years prior.
Going into the summer with a core Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Metta World Peace, the Lakers added eight-time All-Star and two-time MVP Steve Nash via a trade with the Phoenix Suns. The team then followed up that move with one that effectively dwarfed the acquisition of Nash. On August 10, 2012, the Lakers completed a four-team trade that delivered seven-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard from Orlando to Los Angeles. With a starting five of Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol, and Howard, the Lakers figured to be nearly unstoppable. But setback after setback sent the team’s 2012-13 season into a full-on tailspin that culminated in a seventh-seed finish in the West and a first-round exit, a late-season torn Achilles for Kobe Bryant, and the departure of Dwight Howard via free agency.
Looking ahead to 2013-14, the Lakers are a greater mystery than perhaps any team in the league. Will point guard Steve Nash return to the ageless form he’d displayed since his 30th birthday way back in 2004 (with the exception of last season)? Will the absence of another low-post threat (first Andrew Bynum and later Dwight Howard) reinvigorate Pau Gasol, or will it further highlight his decline? And when will Kobe return?
Lakers’ Key Offseason Moves
It was a very un-Lakerslike offseason for Los Angeles. The team lost Dwight Howard to the Houston Rockets in free agency, replacing him with center Chris Kaman, who has been little more than a solid rotation big man since a surprise All-Star appearance in 2010. The team also used the amnesty provision to waive forward Metta World Peace, who was owed a reported $7.7 million dollars in 2013-14. To replace his production on the perimeter, the team brought in Nick Young, a score-first shooting guard who struggled to find consistent playing time in his lone season with the Sixers last year. Young, an L.A. native, figures to play a larger role with the Lakers than he did in Philly last season, if only because of his new team’s lack of depth.
Speaking of, here are the wing players on the Lakers’ roster next season, other than Bryant, who is not expected to be available for the Lakers on opening night: Nick Young, Jodie Meeks, and Wesley Johnson. The frontcourt isn’t much better, with Jordan Hill serving as the team’s only proven contributor outside of projected starters Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman. Fortunately for the Lakers, Bryant is expected to return to action before the new year. Unfortunately for the Sixers, Bryant is expected to return to action before the new year… and the two teams hold their only meeting at Wells Fargo Center in February.
• The Lakers have failed to make the playoffs just twice since 1976.
• The Sixers hold a 139-130 all-time series lead over the Lakers, dating back to the teams’ first meeting on January 11, 1950.
Last Time They Met: Sixers 103, Lakers 99 – January 1, 2013
Despite a 36-point output from Kobe Bryant, the Lakers could not outlast the Sixers who were led by Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner. The two combined for 48 points, 15 assists, and 15 rebounds en route to a 103-99 Philly victory on New Year’s Day.
Dwight Howard grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked five shots for the Lakers, but scored just seven points on 1-of-7 shooting. Steve Nash notched a double-double (12 points and 10 assists).
Spencer Hawes filled the stat sheet with 13 points, six assists, five rebounds, and four blocks in 27 minutes off the bench.