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The Daily Sweat: Lakers try to salvage season with healthy Anthony Davis

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Anthony Davis finally returned to the Los Angeles Lakers' lineup earlier this week. And the Lakers got one of their better wins in a while.

The Lakers beat the shorthanded Brooklyn Nets in Davis' return. For a team that is 24-24 and in a fight just to get in the NBA playoff field, that counts as progress.

The Lakers still have three elite players and hopes of more than a disappointing regular season followed by a first-round playoff exit, which is what happened last season. There's still time to rally with Davis back. The Lakers travel for a big test against the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night. The 76ers are 2.5-point favorites at BetMGM.

The 76ers, behind emerging MVP candidate Joel Embiid, have been playing very well. But the Lakers were supposed to be able to beat good teams, even on the road.

The pieces haven't really fit. LeBron James is having an under-the-radar fantastic season, but Russell Westbrook hasn't been the asset the Lakers hoped he would be, and Davis was out with an MCL injury. Even if you didn't buy the Lakers coming into the season as one of the true contenders to win a championship, you probably didn't think they'd be .500.

Davis didn't do much in his return, scoring eight points with two rebounds. But he's one of the best players in the world when healthy and his presence makes a big difference. If the Lakers are going to be anywhere close to the team they were expected to be this season, things need to turn around fast. A win over the 76ers would offer some hope.

Anthony Davis returned to the Lakers' lineup against the Nets this week. (Photo by Michelle Farsi/Getty Images)
Anthony Davis returned to the Lakers' lineup against the Nets this week. (Photo by Michelle Farsi/Getty Images)

Here's the first look at the sports betting slate for Thursday:

A short NBA card

There are only two NBA games, both on TNT. Lakers-76ers starts the doubleheader, and the Golden State Warriors host the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second game. The Timberwolves have some exciting young stars and they're a playoff contender (they are a half-game ahead of the Lakers). Golden State is a 6.5-point favorite. They are unlikely to beat Golden State, but it's a good opportunity on a national stage to show their improvement.

What about college hoops?

There are six games including ranked teams, including an odd 5 p.m. Eastern tipoff between Wisconsin and Nebraska. The Badgers are favored by 7.5 points.

The best game on the card probably is No. 6 Purdue at Iowa. Purdue hasn't lost by more than five points all season and should still be viewed as a national title contender. But it won't be easy to beat Iowa, which is 14-5 with only one home loss all season. Purdue is favored by 2.5.

What else is on the slate?

The United States men's national soccer team plays a World Cup qualifier. The American team is a -500 favorite against El Salvador. There are three other CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers (Jamaica vs. Medico, Honduras vs. Canada, Costa Rica vs. Panama).

The PGA's Farmer's Insurance Open has its second round on Friday. Jon Rahm is the heavy favorite at +240. He shot six-under-par in the first round and is tied for fifth. Also, there are 10 NHL games. There isn't much NBA but plenty of everything else.

What's the best bet?

I need to see the Lakers' improvement before I believe it. The 76ers have been playing well and laying 2.5 points isn't much. Give me Philadelphia.