After a 1-3 road trip, the Los Angeles Lakers returned home Wednesday night and hosted one of the other young up-and-coming teams in the NBA in the Philadelphia 76ers.
Lakers head coach Luke Walton went with his normal starting lineup of Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Brook Lopez.
They faced the tough challenge of facing the Sixers rookie sensation, 6’10” point guard Ben Simmons and center Joel Embiid. They were joined in the starting lineup by J.J. Redick, Robert Covington and Dario Saric.
The Lakers got off to a slow start as Embiid scored five of the Sixers first seven points and Simmons had a big transition dunk to put Philadelphia up 9-2 early.
Kuzma responded on a layup after a full-court outlet pass from Ball, but the Sixers seemingly could not miss the first few minutes of the game, working their lead up to 18-7, causing Luke Walton to burn an early timeout, as has been the case in many recent games for the Lakers.
The lack of energy continued out of the timeout for L.A. forcing Walton to insert his top subs, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson into the game earlier than usual.
It worked, as Clarkson, Randle and Andrew Bogut sparked an 8-2 run to bring the Lakers back within seven with two minutes left in the first.
The Lakers then scored five straight to close out the quarter, and despite the poor start they trailed just 29-26 at the end of one.
The Laker run continued to start the second quarter as back-to-back layups by Clarkson and Corey Brewer actually gave the Lakers the lead at 30-29.
But from there the 76ers went on another run, scoring 12 straight after Covington hit a three. That run was broken on a layup by Clarkson.
L.A.’s offense got rolling a bit in the second quarter, as Ball, Kuzma and Ingram all hit driving layups, giving Ingram a game-high 13 points. But getting stops was an issue, and they still trailed 46-40.
As soon as the Lakers got within three on two free throws by Kuzma after he was fouled on a dunk-of-the-year attempt on Embiid, Embiid responded with a three-point play. Clarkson responded with a tip-in and the Lakers trailed 58-54 at halftime.
The second half started with four straight points by Lopez to tie the game. But the Lakers had no answer for Simmons, who knocked down a pair of free throws and followed it with a dunk.
With the Lakers leading by two, the Sixers followed with an 8-0 run, demonstrating terrific ball movement and forcing the Lakers to call a timeout.
Ball’s shooting struggles continued in the third quarter, as he missed three straight open threes, but Ingram and Kuzma picked up the slack on the offensive end and kept L.A. within striking distance.
Ingram was aggressive for much of the third quarter, and he had everything going for him resulting in a 21-point, 11-rebound and 3-assist stat line through three quarters and the Lakers actually led 84-83 at the end of three.
Embiid and Simmons were virtually unstoppable, as whenever the Lakers would double-team either of them they would just find the other for a bucket.
Philadelphia opened up a 92-87 lead three minutes into fourth, but Clarkson answered with a floater to end the mini-run.
Embiid went to the bench with eight minutes left in the game, giving the Lakers their best opportunity to make a run and perhaps take the lead. Some poor officiating hurt their chances though as they called a foul on Randle going up for a rebound that he didn’t agree with, and he was called for a technical.
Right as Embiid came back on the floor, the Lakers tied the game at 97 on a running hook by Kuzma with just under six minutes left in the game.
Walton had Randle guarding Embiid down the stretch, and Embiid continued to expose him as they went to him just about every possession and he delivered time and time again on what was his career night.
With three minutes left, L.A. trailed by four, but Kuzma knocked down a three to give him a new career high with 24 points. After the Lakers failed to get a rebound an a couple different occasions a couple possessions later, Covington buried a three and then Redick hit a layup to put the Sixers up 112-104 with a minute left to play.
After the Lakers final timeout of the game, Kuzma found Randle for a dunk to bring the Lakers within six. Ingram then blocked a three-point attempt by Redick and finished a dunk in transition and suddenly the deficit was just four with 46.5 seconds left.
Embiid got to the rim with ease though for an easy layup on the next possession, giving him 46 points in the game on just 20 shots.
That essentially iced the game as the Sixers came away with a 115-109 victory in what was one of the most entertaining games of the season at Staples Center.
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