Lakers at Philadelphia 76ers preview

Today's Lakers-Philadelphia 76ers game could have a big impact on the Lakers' draft position

Monday's visit to Philadelphia may be the most important game left on the Lakers' schedule.

The Lakers (19-53) owe their 2015 first-round pick to the 76ers (18-56), via the Phoenix Suns and the Steve Nash trade, provided it's not a top-five selection.

A Lakers' loss would give the Sixers their 19th victory, evening the race to the bottom in the win column. If the Lakers can climb to third in the NBA draft lottery standings, the team would have a 96% chance of staying in the top five.

At fourth, where they currently reside, the Lakers have an 83.8% chance of keeping their pick.

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

Jeremy Lin sat out Sunday with an upper respiratory infection.

Philadelphia will play without Joel Embiid (back) and Tony Wroten (knee), also out for the year.

Key matchup

Nerlens Noel has jumped into rookie of the year consideration, evolving into an impact defender.

Through March, Noel is averaging 14.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2.1 blocks a game.

On Friday, he scored a career-high 30 points in a loss to the Clippers.

After sitting Jordan Hill for three games to get a look at some of the team's younger players, Coach Byron Scott put the forward/center back into the rotation.

Against the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, Hill was impressive with 22 points and 16 rebounds. Neither Ed Davis nor Carlos Boozer played (coach's decision).

X-factor

Robert Covington can be an explosive scorer, especially from the outside.  On Sunday, the forward hit five of nine three-point attempts for 19 points in a losing effort against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Lakers have a stronger attack with Lin in the lineup, along with Jordan Clarkson.  Guards Wayne Ellington and rookie Jabari Brown have also been important scorers for the Lakers over the last month.

Outlook

The Sixers have been a competitive team in recent games, although they generally struggle to close in fourth quarters -- an issue for the Lakers as well.

Philadelphia would benefit with a loss, staying in third place in the lottery and hurting the Lakers' chances, thus improving the odds the Sixers get the Lakers' pick.

When the game actually tips, the players aren't concerned with all of the above, but are playing to win.

The home team should have the advantage on Monday.

Twitter: @EricPincus

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