76ers Blog: Pre-Game Notes ~ 12/29/2013 @ Los Angeles Lakers
12/29/2013 9:08:00 PM
The 76ers (8-21; 5th-Atlantic Division, 14th-Eastern Conference) play their final game of the 2013 calendar year, visiting the Los Angeles Lakers (13-17; 4th-Pacific Division, 13th-Western Conference) at Staples Center. The Sixers' road losing streak reached a 13th straight defeat with their 115-101 setback at the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night; the team is 0-2 on its current six-road trip.
The month of December has not been kind to either the Sixers or Los Angeles. The Sixers have won just twice since November came to an end. The Lakers, meanwhile, are in the midst of a season-high four-game losing streak; the slump began two games after Kobe Bryant suffered a left knee fracture at the Memphis Grizzlies on December 17th.
One of the high points of the Sixers' previous season was their New Year's Day road victory over the Lakers. The Sixers started the game strong, out-scoring the Lakers in each of the first three quarters en route to a 103-99 win; Jrue Holiday produced a double-double with 26 points and 10 assists, while Evan Turner put up 22 points and 13 rebounds. The Sixers are looking to collect road wins against the Lakers in consecutive seasons for the first time since the 1982-1983 and 1983-1984 campaigns.
Thaddeus Young has been a multi-dimensional force for the 76ers over their last three games. He scored 25 points against the Brooklyn Nets, and has since delivered 30-point, 10-rebound double-doubles against the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns. Prior to the first two games of the Sixers' road trip, Young had only manufactured two 30-point performances over his previous six seasons as a professional.
An impressive subplot to Young's recent offensive surge has been his three-point shooting. He pieced together - over three games - a string of 10 three-pointers made in a row, before missing a perimeter attempt in last night's second quarter. Since the Sixers' December 20th overtime win against Brooklyn, Young has converted 11 of 14 three-point tries. He hit a total of eight three-point field goals between the 2010-2011 and 2012-2013 seasons.
"I think Thaddeus' last three games are off the charts. It's at an All-Star-type level," said 76ers head coach Brett Brown following last night's game. "He's playing with a versatility, and a toughness, and a leadership. If that's what he is, he's something pretty special."
Before Young's back-to-back 30-point outputs, Allen Iverson was the last Sixer to generate at least 30 points in two consecutive games or more; Iverson had four 30-point games in a row early on in the 2006-2007 season.
Important, needed players have littered the Lakers' injury report throughout the season. Kobe Bryant is sidelined indefinitely with a left knee fracture, Pau Gasol will miss his second straight game due to a respiratory virus, Steve Nash is shelved with a nerve issue, and veteran big man Chris Kaman is listed as a game-time decision because of an ankle sprain.
The Lakers' poor health has caused head coach Mike D'Antoni to create15 different starting line-ups over the team's first 30 games; he's gone with a different starting group in each of the Lakers' last six games.
The absence of Bryant - a two-time NBA scoring champion - for all but six of Los Angeles' 30 games has robbed the Lakers of obvious Hall of Fame offensive talent. Without him, the Lakers have had to turn two former Sixers to pace their scoring; Nick Young (15.9 PT) and Jodie Meeks (12.9 PT) rank first and second, respectively, in scoring among the Lakers' active players.
"Playing against my old team, it'll feel good to get a victory," Young said after a recent Lakers workout. "They've been talking trash through text messages, so it should be fun."