Lakers vs. 76ers Preview: Back L.A. to Cover at Full Strength

NBA betting contributor Jacob McKenna previews how to bet Thursday's primetime matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers.

Lakers vs. 76ers Odds

Lakers Odds +2.5
76ers Odds -2.5
Over/Under 219
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers travel to Philadelphia to take on Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night.

L.A. is currently in the heart of a six-game road trip, one in which they have won two of their first three games. Meanwhile, Philly is just beginning a five-game home stand and has won seven of its past 10 games.

Joel Embiid has arguably been the most dominant player in the NBA early on in 2022, and no one has seemed to find many answers for him. Can the Lakers find a way to keep him in check, or will Embiid continue his dominance and lead the 76ers to another victory?

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Anthony Davis Drastically Changes Lakers’ Defense

Anthony Davis is officially back in the lineup for the Lakers, which is great news for a team that struggled often while he was sidelined with an MCL injury.

Despite being on a minutes restriction in his return against the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday, Davis still found a way to make an impact. He only finished with eight points, but on the defensive end of the floor he managed to tally one steal and four blocks and hold down the paint tremendously well.

The Lakers found very little success on defense while Davis was out, posting a Defensive Rating of 116 when he was off the floor. However, even though Davis played just 24 minutes, L.A. took a step in the right direction with a Defensive Rating of 101.1 in his first game back, which could be a sign of things to come.

The next step for the Lakers would be to find more firepower on the the offensive end of the floor, which Davis may be able to provide as time goes on. In their past three games, they are scoring 109.7 points per game, down from their season average of 111.2. However, they have been much more efficient with their chances, improving their field goal percentage to 47.4%.

Davis will provide this team with more balance on both ends of the floor, which is something the Lakers desperately need in order to stop Embiid and move up from the ninth spot in the Western Conference.

Joel Embiid’s Greatness Powers the 76ers Offense

Most players in the NBA are incapable of the level of play that Embiid has displayed lately. His dominance has kept the 76ers in playoff contention and just 2.5 games back of the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Over his past 15 games, Embiid has averaged 34.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game in what has been a dominant stretch of basketball. He is also shooting an incredible 55.9% from the floor and 38.8% from behind the arc in those 15 games, further proving he is one of the most unstoppable forces in the league. Those aren’t empty stats he’s putting up either, Philadelphia — a .500 teams as recently as Christmas Day — has benefitted significantly from Embiid’s play lately.

Philly has seen its Offensive Rating soar to 116.5 since Embiid began this run, which ranks first in the NBA and is a significant improvement from their season rating of 111.4. As a team, their overall field goal percentage has increased to 47.2% and from behind the arc they are shooting 37.5%, both of which are season bests.

The 76ers are easily playing their best basketball of the season right now, and they are going to have to keep playing at this level in order to distance themselves in what is an extremely competitive Eastern Conference.

Lakers-76ers Pick

Embiid is certainly throwing himself into the MVP conversation, but will his play alone be enough to take down a Lakers team that is back at full strength?

Outside of Embiid, the 76ers haven’t gotten consistent production from anyone else. Tobias Harris is often seen as the next man up, but he has scored 20 points or fewer in six of his past nine games. After that, the scoring duties tend to fall on the shoulders of Tyrese Maxey or Seth Curry (he’s out tonight with an ankle injury) who haven’t always been reliable third options.

Embiid has been doing it all for his team as of late, but I’m not sure he will be able to continue this level of play without getting some help from his teammates, which hasn’t always been there. As a result, I think a healthy Lakers team is going to remain competitive in this one and keep this game close.

Pick: Lakers +2.5 (-110)