Much improved, although with nothing to show for it over the past two games, the Los Angeles Lakers will move forward on Sunday night with a formidable test against the visiting Philadelphia 76ers.

The Lakers hung tough for four quarters and two extra periods before absorbing a 119-115 double-overtime defeat to the visiting Dallas Mavericks on Thursday.

The Lakers appeared to find a way forward with Russell Westbrook playing late-game tight defense on Dallas superstar Luka Doncic, and the plan nearly paid dividends. Doncic made just two baskets combined in the fourth quarter and first overtime, but they were clutch 3-pointers to extend the game each time.

In the end, Doncic delivered his 10th triple-double of the season with 35 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists. But the Lakers’ determination forced Doncic to stay on the court and play all but nine seconds of the 34 minutes after halftime.

“At the end of the day, teams have closing lineups, and we got so many guys that are in and out of the lineup, and right now we got a lot of guys that are banged up,” said Lakers star LeBron James, who had 24 points and 16 rebounds. “So it’s almost like, who is in a good rhythm that night is going to be probably on the floor along with myself and (Westbrook).”

Westbrook had 28 points and seven rebounds, but Los Angeles has dropped consecutive games since a five-game winning streak that came on the heels of James’ post-Christmas challenge to his teammates to follow his lead.

It was the Lakers’ third consecutive defeat in overtime games, with one of those a 133-122 decision at Philadelphia on Dec. 9. That was when Anthony Davis was on the court for Los Angeles. Davis has missed the past 14 games with a stress injury to his right foot, but there are reports that he has resumed physical activity again and is on the road to a return.

The Sixers received 38 points and 12 rebounds from Joel Embiid in the December victory over the Lakers. Embiid missed three games earlier this month with soreness in his left foot, then played in three consecutive contests, including Saturday’s 118-117 victory over the Utah Jazz, when he hit the go-ahead step-back jumper with 5.7 seconds remaining.

Embiid finished with 30 points and James Harden had 31, including 18 in the fourth quarter. Embiid and Harden scored 23 of the Sixers’ final 26 points.

Philadelphia now has a quick turnaround into Sunday’s game at Los Angeles, with no indication yet on whether Embiid will play on the second night of a back-to-back. He played 36 minutes Saturday.

With the Sixers working through a number of injuries to Harden, Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, a conservative approach wouldn’t be out of the question as Philadelphia attempts to stay healthy for a strong second half of the regular season.

“We’ve had stretches offensively where we’ve looked great, so we just want to keep improving and getting better,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said, according to USA Today. “The more minutes our guys can play together, the more things we can see.”

–Field Level Media