3 key things to watch for during Sixers-Lakers showdown

NBA: FEB 24 Magic at 76ers
PHILADELPHIA, PA – FEBRUARY 24: Philadelphia 76ers Center Joel Embiid (21) laughs with Orlando Magic Center Bismack Biyombo (11) in the second half during the game between the Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers on February 24, 2018 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Sixers host the reigning champs tonight.

After a pretty underwhelming (albeit Embiid-less) loss to the Detroit Pistons on Monday night, the Sixers get to quickly turnaround and host the defending NBA champions tonight. The Western Conference-leading LA Lakers sit at a commanding 14-4, showing no signs of a “Finals hangover” this far.

Here’s what you should be keeping an eye on during tonight’s nationally televised matchup:

Joel Embiid vs Anthony Davis

Through the first 10+ games of the season, Joel Embiid has looked like a legitimate MVP candidate. He’s averaging a career-high 27.7 points per game and has made a noticeable improvement in terms of his conditioning. Regardless of who you ask or where you look, Embiid is at least top-3 in the MVP discussion.

Anthony Davis on the other hand has taken a slight step back from his 2020 numbers but is still one of the most complete bigs in all of basketball. He’ll easily crack his 8th All-Star game this season, and will likely see some DPOY consideration when it’s all said and done.

Thus far, Embiid has gotten the best of Davis throughout their careers. Embiid is 3-1 against the Laker big, albeit Davis is averaging more points, rebounds, assists, and blocks during those games. The way this matchup plays out down low will likely dictate the outcome of tonight’s game.

Battle of the benches

Despite the continuing emergence of Shake Milton, the Sixers still rank 24th in the NBA in terms of bench scoring. The Lakers on the other hand completely revamped their bench depth this past offseason, and currently rank 6th in the NBA in terms of bench scoring.

If the Sixers are going to compete with the loaded LA bench – consisting of the likes of Dennis Schroder and Montrezl Harrell – they’ll need productive minutes from the likes of Milton, ex-Laker Dwight Howard, and possibly Furkan Korkmaz and/or Tyrese Maxey.

Not an easy task for the Sixers bench squad, but they’ll have to find a way to produce nevertheless.

Time for Ben to solidify his case for DPOY.

Despite all of Ben Simmons‘ perceived offensive flaws, he’s still one of the top defenders in the NBA. He’s right up there with the best of them in terms of the “Defensive Player of the Year” conversation, and tonight’s game against the Lakers will be yet another opportunity for him to build his case.

Despite his ever-increasing age, LeBron James is still operating as if he’s in his athletic prime. The 16x All-Star is currently averaging 25.2 ppg, 7.9 reb, and 7.4 ast. He’s arguably still the best player in the league, and he’s coming off an eye-popping 46 point performance against the Cavs on Monday.

Simmons won’t be able to lock down LeBron completely, no-one can. However, slowing down “The King” should be Simmons’ number one priority come game time.

Tip-off is at 7:30 PM ET.

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire