The NBA season is just under 20 games in but tonight all eyes will be on one of the biggest contests of this young season. Leading the way in the Eastern Conference, the (12-6) Philadelphia 76ers will play host to the best team in the league, the Western Conference’s (14-4) LA Lakers (7.30pm ET Wednesday; TV: Live on ESPN).
Read on for our Sixers vs Lakers predictions, full preview and betting picks. It has been quite some time since these teams met in the NBA Finals, but could 2021 be the year the rivalry is renewed? If early season successes are any indication, tonight’s nationally televised game could be a preview of the postseason to come.
Off the back of winning their first championship with LeBron James, the Lakers entered the 2020-21 campaign considered by many to be the team to beat. As hard a feat as repeating as champions is in sports, LA spent their offseason only getting better. Within the West, it’s hard to find any team that will be able to stand in the Lakers’ way of winning the conference yet again.
An entire country away in Philadelphia, the 76ers were in a state of flux following yet another early playoff exit. Much like the Lakers, Philly spent their offseason improving. The team brought in a new head coach and new team president, all while keeping their core together and bringing in key value players to help build the bench the team lacked. Winning the East seems more and more likely for this team, which could even end the year with the league’s most valuable player, but more on him later.
The Sixers and Lakers seem to be pretty evenly matched right now and should the teams meet in a best-of-seven, it could really go either way. We’re a long way away from the postseason. This game will be more of a barometric test than anything else. The Sixers have a chance to show they can go toe-to-toe with the league’s best or they have a chance to flounder against that level of competition. With both teams at full health going into this one, look for the intensity to ramp up very quickly as the Lakers and Sixers will both be out with something (albeit different somethings) to prove.
Home Sweet Home
At initial glance of the 2020-21 records, home court advantage doesn’t seem like an asset to the Sixers. Sure they are 9-1 at the Wells Fargo Center, but the Lakers are 10-0 on the road. So cross out home court advantage, right? Wrong. While this year, the Lakers road record seemingly negates any sort of advantage Philly may have playing in their own stadium, the Sixers have been one of the NBA’s best home teams for some time now. In 2019-20, they went 31-4 at WFC to post the NBA’s best record at home. In 2018-19, they were 31-10. In 2017-18, it was 30-11. Add those three years up and the Sixers have lost just 25 out of a possible 117 home games. That means they have won 92, which is a home court winning percentage just shy of 79%. If we were to include this year’s 9-1 start, that winning percentage climbs to just under 86%. No team has had that kind of sustained success at home over the last four seasons.
So while the Lakers road record in 2020-21 is quite pristine, the level of excellence that Philadelphia brings to the table when playing at the Wells Fargo Center is an advantage that can never fully be denied.
The Rise of Joel Embiid
When it comes to LeBron James vs anyone, the winner is going to be James at least nine times out of 10. He is one of, if not the all-time best, to play the game. He has won titles, individual accolades and has his name littered up and down the record books. In his now 17 years in the league, James has been a once in a lifetime player to watch. Joel Embiid is not that. That’s not to say he can’t be. In just his fourth year in the NBA, Embiid has shown flashes of greatness unlike any that have come before him. Consistency is key and as big man, Embiid has dealt with injuries that have affected his play and kept him off the court as much as he has been on it. He doesn’t have the rings James does, nor the individual accolades, but when Embiid is at his best, he’s as good as anyone in the game.
So far in 2020-21, Embiid has been at his best. Currently averaging an NBA fifth-most amount of points per game, Embiid also leads the league in getting to the free throw line and making those easy buckets. He averages over 10 free throws attempted per game and his 8.9 made is tops as well. Embiid also averages the seventh most rebounds per game of any player and leads in the league in player efficiency rating. James is just 15th in this category this year.
Embiid is getting some early MVP consideration, an award category that James is all too familiar with. This year isn’t about the 4x winner who last lifted the trophy in 2013. That was four years before Embiid was even in the league, back when he was just starting to light things up with the Kansas Jayhawks.
When it comes to this year, Embiid is playing better than James and it has mattered because the Sixers go as he goes. Of Philadelphia’s six losses, Embiid only played in two of those games. In fairness to the Sixers, one of those losses, against the Atlanta Hawks came with the team only able to dress nine players and missing key contributors including Seth Curry, who is the NBA’s second-best sharpshooter, making over half the threes he attempts. Needless to say, without Embiid, the Sixers are missing a huge dimension to their offense and what they do well.
So how do our LA Lakers vs Philadelphia 76ers predictions work out for this NBA clash? Well, here are our betting picks for this preview:
- Take the Sixers +3pts on the spread @ -110 with BetOnline.
- Go over 221.5 total points @ -110, also with BetOnline.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.