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Lakers vs. Philadelphia 76ers preview

The loser of today's Lakers-76ers matchup will hold the third-best draft lottery position

The Lakers (17-50) and Philadelphia 76ers (17-52) meet Sunday night at Staples Center in a game with significant draft implications.

The loser will hold the third-best lottery position (based on the win column), behind the New York Knicks (14-55) and the Minnesota Timberwolves (15-53).

The Sixers own the Lakers' first-round pick in June, but only if the Lakers' selection drops out of the top five.  It's in Philadelphia's best interest for the Lakers to win -- just as it's in the Lakers' best interest for the 76ers to win.

Of course, once the players get on the floor, they're not especially interested in the lottery standings.

The Sixers have won two in a row, while the Lakers have dropped four straight.

Philadelphia's Joel Embiid (back) and Tony Wroten (knee) are out for the year. Thomas Robinson is dealing with a rib injury.

For the Lakers, Nick Young is out with a knee injury while Ronnie Price (elbow), Kobe Bryant (shoulder), Julius Randle (knee) and Steve Nash (back) are all done for the season.

Key matchup

Outside of the injured Wroten, forward Robert Covington is leading the Sixers in scoring at 12.7 points a game.

Covington has a solid outside shot, at 37.5% from behind the arc, but is hitting just 38.9% from the field.

Noted defender (but typically a non-scorer) Luc Mbah a Moute is at 10.1 points a game on 40.7% shooting.

It's no surprise the Sixers score a league-worst 91.1 points a game, while allowing 100.3.

Philadelphia has just five road wins.

The key matchup for the Lakers is their defense, which allows 104.7 points a night, against Philadelphia's anemic offense.

Of course the Lakers' top-two scorers are out (Bryant and Young). Carlos Boozer and Jordan Hill lead the active Lakers at 12.3 points a night.

X-factor

The Sixers have one of the most promising rookies this season in Nerlens Noel, who missed his initial year with a knee injury.

So far in March, Noel is averaging 13.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.9 steals and 2.0 blocks a game.

The Lakers are also relying on a rookie, guard Jordan Clarkson, who is at 13.7 points, 5.0 assists and 4.7 rebounds a game through 10 appearances in March.

Outlook

Given how awful the Lakers have been this season, the franchise needs that first-round pick.

Coach Byron Scott has adamantly maintained that he is trying to win every game.

The Lakers have no business winning Sunday, which is why they probably will.

Email Eric Pincus at Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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