3 storylines to watch as Sixers take on the defending champs


The Sixers will try Wednesday night to avoid their second losing streak of the season. Though Joel Embiid wasn’t listed on Tuesday night’s injury report after missing the Sixers’ defeat to the Pistons on Monday with back tightness, it likely won’t be an easy task.  

Here are the essentials for Wednesday's game between the 12-6 Sixers and 14-4 Lakers:

  • When: 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: Wells Fargo Center 
  • Broadcast: ESPN

And here are three storylines to watch: 

Intriguing big men matchups 

The Lakers should have options against Embiid, including the player who defended him during the worst offensive game of his NBA career.

Marc Gasol, who’s starting for the Lakers but only averaging 18.9 minutes per game, has guarded Embiid well in the past, with Embiid’s 0-for-11 performance in Toronto last season a prominent example. Embiid exited early with a right hand injury the last time the two squared off, a Raptors win in the Sixers’ penultimate seeding game.

Seven-time All-Star Anthony Davis and reigning Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell are the Lakers’ two other big-name big men. How Lakers head coach Frank Vogel divvies up minutes against Embiid and the Lakers’ defensive approach on him will be interesting to watch, especially since Embiid missed both Sixers-Lakers games last year because of injuries. Davis was listed as probable with a right ankle contusion. 

Dwight Howard would’ve factored into this equation on the Los Angeles side a year ago, but now he’ll likely face a difficult test in Harrell, who should test his 1-on-1 defense and not give him many easy rebounds. 


Playmaking guards 

Even at 36 years old, LeBron James is still the unquestioned hub of his team’s offense any time he plays. Coming off a season-high 46 points Monday in the Lakers’ win over the Cavs, James was listed as questionable with a left ankle sprain. His availability is obviously a significant storyline on its own.

The Lakers did add a guard capable of easing the playmaking burden on James this offseason in Dennis Schröder. Though Schröder is 3 for his last 21 from three-point range, the second-place finisher in last season’s Sixth Man race is a threat to score at the rim, and perhaps he’s due to find his shot.

Shake Milton’s first NBA start was the Sixers’ win a little over a year ago against the Lakers. He was under control, looked comfortable and grabbed nine rebounds. Whether Milton is able to score efficiently on defensive-minded Lakers guard Alex Caruso could be a key factor Wednesday night. 

The basketball world is watching 

If James is available, this would clearly be the Sixers’ most difficult game on paper so far this season. Their status as the first-place team in the Eastern Conference would seem a lot more meaningful if they win Wednesday.

Ben Simmons was brilliant in that Jan. 25 matchup last season, posting 28 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Tobias Harris (29 points, eight rebounds) was very good, too. Both players will undoubtedly be under greater national scrutiny than usual.