It was 73-60 when Wu Tang Clan started playing over the loudspeakers at Wells Fargo Center. Seemingly energized by the RZA, the GZA, Old Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, and Raekwon the Chef, the Sixers immediately went on a 10-2 run to cut the Lakers’ lead to five.
But instead of closing the gap further to end the third quarter, Ben Simmons forced a bad pass and Joel Embiid committed an awful foul at the other end, allowing Los Angeles to snag four more points heading into the final period and push the lead back to nine.
That was the difference last night, not necessarily that sequence in particular, but the large sampling of crippling turnovers and momentum-killing breakdowns that quashed a spirited Sixers’ comeback.
Brett Brown’s team turned it over 18 times last night, leading to 25 Laker points. JJ Redick had four of those, losing the ball on a critical possession late in the fourth quarter and committing some rough fouls alongside fellow veteran Jerryd Bayless. It’s one thing to expect turnovers from Simmons and Embiid, but you expect more from the Sixers’ veteran pair.
And the final sequence was frenetic when it didn’t need to be, with Robert Covington leaving Brandon Ingram wide open to collapse on Lonzo Ball when Richaun Holmes had rotated to provide help at the rim. Ingram hit a three-point dagger to end the game.
More than anything, the Sixers just didn’t show up early, lacking urgency on both ends of the floor after a two-day break following Monday night’s disappointing loss. The Sixers are now 13-11 with three straight road games coming up against Cleveland, New Orleans, and Minnesota.
1) Rebounding the basketball
Along with the egregiously high turnover number, the Sixers got killed on the offensive glass last night, giving up 15 Laker rebounds in that department.
Los Angeles starters had 12 alone, while the Sixers entire first team mustered only one. LA was credited with 22 second chance points on the strength of their rebounding.
This one, to end the third quarter, was aggravating in particular:
22 second chance points and 25 points off of turnovers = 47 of the Lakers’ 107 total.
2) Guarding Joel
Embiid finished with 33 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 blocks. I don’t think anyone expected him to replicate his 46 point performance in Los Angeles, but again he was incredibly effective in the fourth quarter, shooting 4-5 from the field and 2-2 from three-point range. He went 6-6 from the foul line in that period as well.
Los Angeles did double-team Joel in the first half, sliding a second guy over on his low-block post ups:
Here’s how that sequence played out:
Nice recognition from Joel there to kick it out to Robert Covington after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope collapses on him and then blows a defensive assignment.
You also saw Embiid on the floor with Holmes last night, which has been a rare occurrence this season.
There were a couple of plays where they drew doubles in the paint and spotted each other for easy buckets:
And here’s how that one played out:
Bunch of Lakers snoozing there.
They got away from it down the stretch and tried their luck 1v1 against Embiid while attempting to push him further away from the basket. They gave up a chunk of points, but got the stop when it counted, with Julius Randle doing enough to put off Joel’s shot attempt at 104-104 and give the ball back to the Lakers for the game-winning play.
Here’s what Randle said about defending Embiid this time around, versus the first matchup in LA:
“It was over-aggressive. I think the first game he made a jump shot and I’m still overreacting. Pressure, too much on his catch, I didn’t like how easy I made it for him. It’s easy to send a guy to the free-throw line when he has 39 points. It’s easy if he’s catching it two or three feet outside the paint. It’s hard to have help behind you when you’re letting him do that. I just tried to make his catches tough and make him work for his guys.”
3) Bench energy, or lack thereof
There was a point about midway through the third quarter where the Sixers bench had 2 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 3 turnovers.
That’s it. That’s the entire bench. Holmes, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Amir Johnson, and a T.J. McConnell, who obviously was not 100% after returning from a shoulder injury.
Holmes, then, finished with 13 points and 6 rebounds, doing most of his damage in the game’s final 18 minutes.
On a night when the Sixers showed a lack of burst on national TV against a pretty mediocre team, Holmes brought the intangibles off the bench.
Brett Brown was asked about his contributions after the game:
“I think he just gave us energy and you are right, he scored. But I think the way that he scored was physical, it was emotional, he and Jo I thought were able to play well with each other. It helped with the way that they were playing offense, we felt comfortable that there was a matchup for him. But I thought that his bounce and his spirit really helped us.”
A portion of fans have been clamoring for more Richaun Holmes playing time, and while he might not be totally polished defensively, he does give you some vigor on the offensive end. We’ll see how the clump of Holmes, Johnson, and Trevor Booker shakes out once the latter arrives from Brooklyn in the next few days.
4) Shoulder rubs
There was a goofy moment in the second quarter when Jerryd Bayless dove into the crowd and landed on a dude while knocking over a beer:
Jerryd Bayless found a new friend. pic.twitter.com/UJKFtlsMrH
— ESPN (@espn) December 8, 2017
Guy on the left is a little “handsy,” yea? Bayless decides to finally get up when both mitts find his shoulders for an awkward rub. That’s owner’s row, right next to the Sixer bench, but I don’t recognize the guy. Looks like co-owner David Blitzer is to the right of the second kid.
5) Big Baller Brand
I walked out of the locker room and heard a ruckus in the corridor near the arena exit, where LaVar Ball was shouting/talking to anyone/everyone with a recorder or video camera.
“When you go to somebody else’s house and jump on the couch and leave, that feels good!” the elder Ball exclaimed.
LaVar took a few pictures with “fans,” then proclaimed that he was off to get some “Philly cheesesteaks.”
He was sitting in a club box during the game and it took fans four quarters to locate him. I originally though a fight had broken out in the crowd, but turns out it was just LaVar taunting fans as they flipped him the bird.
The biggest baller of them all got some time with the Process post-game:
LaVar Ball to Joel Embiid after the game: "Don't be scared, I got your a** now. I'm just playing…don't worry about nobody on the outside."
(📹 reddit/r/nba) pic.twitter.com/FZuaolff7i
— SPORTSRADIO 94WIP (@SportsRadioWIP) December 8, 2017
“Don’t worry about nobody on the outside.”
Hmm.. I am not surprised to hear that from LaVar Ball.
Big baller brand pic.twitter.com/o19kshq4UQ
— Michael Fiore (@fiore_michael) December 7, 2017