The Los Angeles Lakers played their third game of a six game road-trip in Philadelphia, a home-coming for Kobe Bryant. Bryant spent his high-school days in Philadelphia, but just like the past 16 seasons, the fans booed Bryant nearly every time he touched the basketball.
As for the Lakers, they were coming off a tough loss to the Utah Jazz and had to get back to their winning ways without coach Mike Brown. Brown was serving his suspension and the Lakers had to fight without their leader on the sidelines.
The Lakers were forcing the ball inside and once again wanted to establish an inside presence early on in the game. Pau Gasol scored four of the Lakers’ first six points and he was very assertive in the paint. As for Kobe Bryant, it was clear that he wanted to find his offensive rhythm early and as a result he began the game shooting 2-3 from the field. At the 8:05 mark of the opening period, Gasol and Bryant scored four and five points for the team, respectively, and helped the Lakers to a 9-2 advantage.
The Lakers continue to punish the Sixers with their size down low and they were leading the rebound total, 11-5 with 4:55 left in the quarter. However, the Lakers’ two turnovers hurt them and Philadelphia took advantage. Despite the strong start by Los Angeles, the Sixers found a way to tie the score at 12.
Philadelphia began to push the ball and were beating the Lakers in the open-court. Despite the fact that Kobe had had an early nine points and was shooting 4-8 from the field, the Sixers held a 19-17 lead with 2:30 left in the quarter.
However, Bryant closed the first period off strong and found a way to give the Lakers the lead after 12 minutes. Kobe was clearly more assertive on the offensive end and he was dominating the ball on that side. Bryant was nailing jumpers from every distance and every angle to score 14 points in the period. Bryant shot 5-9 from the field and tacked on two rebounds.
As the teams headed to the bench, the Lakers held a 24-21 lead.
The Lakers began the second quarter with Kobe and Gasol on the bench, meaning Andrew Bynum had to carry the offense for the first couple minutes. Bynum has the obvious size advantage in the paint, but the Lakers’ six turnovers hurt them dearly. On top of that, when the Lakers did have the ball, they were forcing up bad shots and could not connect from the perimeter. With 8:16 left in the period, Los Angeles was trailing 29-28. The bench was performing well under par and could not provide the team with energy or offense, at that point, Philadelphia’s bench was outscoring the Lakers’ reserves 21-2.
However, once Bryant reentered the game, the momentum shifted towards the Lakers’ side. Kobe continued to stroke the ball from the outside and the Sixers defenders could not do anything from stopping him from scoring. However, even though Kobe had 22 points and made four three-pointers, the other Lakers could not help him on the offense end. Thus, the Lakers had a mere 38-35 advantage with 5:30 left in the half.
At the 5:08 mark, Kobe Bryant made history with his perimeter shot and surpassed former teammate Shaquille O’Neal for fifth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 28,597 points.
There was a surge of energy in the Lakers once Kobe set the milestone, but all that came crashing down when they continued to turn the ball over. Los Angeles had eight turnovers, six more than Philadelphia, and they helped the Sixers stay in striking distance.
After 24 minutes of play, the Lakers had a 50-46 lead and were shooting 44 percent from the field. In addition, the team had a total of 30 rebounds, but eight turnovers.
As for Kobe Bryant, he had an early 24 points, on 8-14 shooting with four three-pointers.
The Lakers started the second half just like they did the first, by feeding the ball to their big men. Gasol and Bynum were dominating the paint and were once again controlling the boards. At the 8:48 mark of the third quarter, the Lakers were up 55-50 thanks to a free-throw by Bynum.
However, just when it seemed as though the Lakers would expand their lead to double-digits the Sixers increased their intensity and got back into the game. Philadelphia was making key defensive stops and were beating the Lakers with its fast-break buckets. They went on a 6-0 run and thanks to an Andre Iguodala dunk, the Sixers had a 58-57 at the mid-way point of the quarter.
To make matters worse, the Sixers were double-teaming Kobe Bryant on every possession and he was having trouble even getting a shot up. The Lakers also continued to turn the ball over and their 14 really affected how they set up the offense. As for the Sixers, they were clicking on all cylinders and were making big plays on both ends of the floor.
After 36 minutes, the Lakers were trailing to the Sixers 70-69 after a 24 point third quarter. Although the Lakers lost momentum in the period, they were still in striking distance and had a chance to retake the lead.
Kobe Bryant did not go on his usual rest during the opening minutes of the fourth quarter and the coaching staff knew he had to be on the court if the team wanted to jump on top. There was an added fire in both teams and it was clear that each possession carried a little more importance.
The Lakers began the period shooting the ball well and opened up a 79-74 lead with 7:57 left in the game thanks to a 10-2 run.
The Lakers kept on feeding the ball to their big men and found easy buckets near the hoop or on the free-throw line. On the other end of the court, the Lakers were playing excellent defense and were closing out on the Sixers’ shooters. Bynum continued his stellar play and was just effective with his blocked shots (three) than his offensive buckets. At the 5:50 mark of the final period, the Lakers held a 82-76 advantage.
Still, Philadelphia never quit and remained in striking distance the entire way. With their speed and agility, the Sixers were never out of the game. The Lakers had just a mere 86-84 lead with a little over three minutes remaining in the game and needed a way to stop the Sixers in the open-court in order to walk away with a victory.
The Lakers and Sixers went back and forth in the final minutes and it was the Sixers and Louis Williams who came up clutch in the end. Williams made the big shots late in the game and the Sixers were able to stop Kobe from scoring when it mattered the most.
As the final buzzer rang, the Sixers completed the comeback and won the game 95-90. The Lakers have lost their second consecutive game and now stand at 14-11.
The Lakers will play next on Thursday night when they travel to Boston to play the Celtics at 8:00 p.m. EST/ 5:00 p.m. EST.
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