Lakers lug five-game skid into Philadelphia




PHILADELPHIA -- The Los Angeles Lakers, who reach the midpoint of a six-game road trip when they visit the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night, are hoping to avoid a repeat of last December's swoon.

The Lakers lost 14 of 16 games that month, and they have dropped their first two this month to run their losing streak to five. They carry an 8-15 record into the matchup with the Sixers (13-10).

"Hopefully we win some of these games this time," Lakers coach Luke Walton said. "But I definitely learned from that. ... The most important thing for us going into this stretch is continuing to know where our priorities are as far as what we're trying to do and where we're trying to get to. As long as we keep doing certain things, we'll come out stronger on the other side."

One of the things they will have to do Thursday is defend Joel Embiid. In the teams' Nov. 15 matchup, the Sixers center generated a career-high 46 points as well as 15 rebounds, seven assists and seven blocked shots to key a 115-109 Philadelphia victory.

Brandon Ingram countered with 26 points for the Lakers, and Kyle Kuzma scored 24. However, rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, matched against fellow first-year performer Ben Simmons, managed two points, five rebounds and two assists.

Simmons finished with 18 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds and five steals.

Ball is bothered by sore calves but is expected to play Thursday. He had just two points Sunday in Los Angeles' 118-95 loss to Houston, a game in which Kuzma, another rookie, notched 22 points off the bench.

Simmons, battling illness, scored 20 on Monday night against Phoenix. He leads all rookies in scoring (18.0 points a game), rebounds (9.3), assists (7.1) and steals (2.32). Kuzma is second in scoring (16.8), and Ball is second in assists (7.0).

The Sixers, however, could not withstand Devin Booker, whose 46-point explosion keyed a 115-101 victory by the Suns.

"I think we lost that game from the jump ball," said Embiid, who had 22 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots. "I think we took them lightly, and we paid for it."

Philadelphia coach Brett Brown did not disagree.

"A game like this is without a doubt a missed opportunity," he said. "When you have a goal to make the playoffs, we're all going to look at somebody that's like -- pick a number -- 41-41 or 42-40. It's going to be that close. And you only have so many times that you're able to poke yourself in the eye.

"Tonight was one of those for us here at home, and we walk out of this gym not feeling great at all about very much of what we did."

Sixers guard T.J. McConnell hopes to play Thursday after missing the past three games with a sprained shoulder. Philadelphia is without rookie guard Markelle Fultz, the top overall pick in this year's draft. He has missed the past 19 games with a shoulder injury.

Sixers guard/forward Justin Anderson (shin splints) is also out.

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