After finally snapping a four game skid with a win over the Washington Wizards Friday, the Los Angeles Lakers completed their four game road trip Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia versus the 12-11 76ers. Despite the fact that Los Angeles went into the match up without Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill, Philadelphia were without their leading scorer Jrue Holiday, providing an ounce of comfort to many Laker fans who are already on edge so early in the season.
The absence of Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill has proven catastrophic to the Lakers play inside the post, with Kobe Bryant stepping up in previous games with increased perimeter shooting, arguably damaging the chemistry and amount of opportunities for other players to make an impact on the floor. Bryant continues to rack up minutes each game in hopes of producing wins, but the additional pressures being consistently piled onto his shoulders are only causing more issues and less victories.
In order to get their first back to back victory for the first time in almost a month, the Lakers need to look toward ball distribution and better defensive schemes. An increase in defensive presence could not only take more pressure off of Bryant on offense, but also make it easier for the team as a whole to grab a win to improve their already ugly season record.
The Lakers started off the game with the energy and momentum on their side, as Kobe Bryant got the ball rolling with a two pointer that initiated the Philly fans well known boo-ing early. Dwight Howard picked up a foul within the first two minutes, automatically bringing up the issue of foul trouble for the big man when the game hadn’t even really began.
Awww how cute. Kwame fell down and Kobe helped him up before running back on defense
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) December 16, 2012
Turnovers continued to be a key issue for the Lakers offensively, with six total possessions already given away without six minutes even passing on the clock. Metta World Peace made up for foolish possessions, however, from beyond the arc, shooting three for three from three-point land. Dwight Howard was unable to put away any buckets in the first, shooting 0-3 from the field. His presence was key, however, as he defensively held ex-Laker Kwame Brown to zero points as well.
Offensively, it was the Kobe and Metta show, with both finishing the quarter with 11 points each, as the Lakers clinched onto their small lead to end the quarter ahead 28-24.
Darius Morris continued a completely stellar performance off of the bench, putting away all five of his first five field goal attempts, including three from beyond the arc. The Lakers were putting on a three-point clinic in Philadelphia, with Bryant, Metta, Morris, Meeks and Duhon all finding success. Howard also began discovering his rhythm, taking some control in the post and finally securing his first points of the game.
It’s already a career-high for @dariusmorris4, who can’t stop scoring with 15 points on 5-5 FG’s (3 3’s).
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) December 16, 2012
Jodie Meeks and Morris produced from the bench as the half endured, finally taking some pressure off of Bryant for the first time in ages. A Magic-like skyhook from Kobe Bryant even had the Philly fans holding back their boos, and only proved that the Sixers’ defense was nothing in comparison to the 34-year-old’s talents.
Nick Young lead the way for Philadelphia in the first half, scoring 16 points despite only making 6-12 from the field. This single performance was not enough to slow down the Lakers momentum, with the visitors heading to the locker room at the half ahead 60-50.
The Lakers and Sixers seemed to switch personalities at the start of the quarter, with Los Angeles having no turnovers in the first four minutes while Philly tallied up four early. Out of the 14 turnovers Philadelphia gave up within the first 30 minutes, the Lakers were able to transform them into 16 points, arguably the key to their large lead. Kobe could only chuckle as he repeatedly put away extremely difficult baskets, and the rest of the roster could only do the same, with the Lakers pulling farther and farther away with the lead.
Chris Duhon put away back to back three-pointers, bringing the team’s total to 12 and giving the Lakers a comfortable 15 point lead, forcing yet another Philly timeout. Metta World Peace dominated both ends of the floor in the quarter, gobbling up multiple defensive rebounds and then finding success in the transition, putting away multiple shot attempts.
Los Angeles got a little carried away with just a minute remaining in the quarter, with sloppy basketball leading to back to back turnovers. Precious points were given up to the Sixers, who executed their opportunities and cut the lead back down to 12. Kobe Bryant, of course, had the final word of the quarter, putting away a final bucket to keep the Lakers on top 87-73 entering the fourth.
The Lakers continued to take control of a majority of the possession in the game, grabbing multiple offensive rebounds to keep the ball in friendly hands and not go back down the other end of the quart without points on the board. Despite some scrappy play and a few turnovers in the first few minutes, L.A. looked like they were going to head back home with another victory.
Impressive game from @mettaworldpeace, who just grabbed his career-high 15th rebound. Also 17 pts, 4 stls, 2 blks in 32 min.
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) December 17, 2012
Spencer Hawes quickly brought Los Angeles back to reality with a three-pointer that cut the Lakers lead to single digits. Bryant and Howard put away back to back buckets to once again solidify a strong lead, but costly turnovers continued to haunt the purple and gold, keeping the hosts in the game.
Chris Duhon hit yet another three-pointer, and the Lakers needed to focus on strong defensive play in the final five minutes to secure the victory, something they have been unsuccessful at earlier in the season. Some ugly shot selections by Philly in the closing minutes only made closing out the game easier for L.A., and the Lakers completed an impressive team effort in Philadelphia with a victory over the Sixers, 111-98.