Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
Another day and another win for the red-hot Philadelphia 76ers.
Philadelphia defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 109-101 in Thursday’s potential NBA Finals preview at Staples Center. Danny Green, Seth Curry and Tobias Harris led the way in Joel Embiid’s absence for the victors, who improved to 32-13 on the season and 10-1 in the last 11 games.
Impressive showings from Dennis Schroder, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were not enough for the shorthanded Lakers, who dropped their fourth straight game without the injured LeBron James and Anthony Davis and fell to 28-17.
Notable Player Stats
- Danny Green, G, PHI: 28 PTS, 5 REB, 8-of-12 3PT
- Seth Curry, G, PHI: 19 PTS, 4-of-8 3PT
- Tobias Harris, F, PHI: 17 PTS, 6 REB, 5 AST, 2 STL
- Ben Simmons, G, PHI: 9 PTS, 12 AST, 7 REB, 2 STL, 7 TO
- Dennis Schroder, G, LAL: 20 PTS, 11 AST, 3 STL
- Kyle Kuzma, F, LAL: 25 PTS, 9 REB
- Montrezl Harrell, C, LAL: 20 PTS, 8 REB
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, G, LAL: 19 PTS, 4 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL
Shorthanded Sixers Win Again Behind Danny Green, Shooting
Few teams in the NBA are equipped to handle a loss like Embiid’s, but the 76ers’ depth has allowed them to remain atop the Eastern Conference.
That depth was immediately put to the test Thursday when Dwight Howard—who is even more important now that Philadelphia traded Tony Bradley—was ejected at the end of the first quarter. He and Harrell went after each other for much of that quarter, and Howard was tossed when he cut off his counterpart’s path to the bench and prompted a shove.
It was a particularly notable blow for the visitors since Howard played so well as a rim protector and low-post scorer before he was ejected.
The ejection also meant more small-ball lineups, and Green, Mike Scott and Curry all launched from deep while Ben Simmons made up for his struggles from the field by setting them up and racking up assists.
Green and Curry remained on fire from deep into the third quarter as the 76ers finally created some expected separation against an overmatched opponent. While the Lakers made a late charge, Green hit the biggest shot of the game from beyond the arc to push the lead back to six with 30 seconds remaining.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Thursday’s performance was the team’s ability to gradually pull away even though Simmons wasn’t scoring and Harris didn’t go into takeover mode like he often has without the big man. They both still put up impressive numbers, but it was the overall balance and 17 made threes that stood out the most in the win.
While Philadelphia will surely need Embiid back and healthy if it is going to reach its absolute ceiling and win a championship, the fact it is playing well in his absence is nothing but a welcome sign for the Eastern Conference leaders. Opponents will double the big man in crunch time of playoff games, and it will be up to the supporting cast to deliver, much like it has of late.
Lakers Continue to Struggle Without Two Stars
The Lakers already proved they don’t need home-court advantage last season when they won the championship inside the Walt Disney World Resort bubble, but there is some reason for concern at this point without James and Davis.
Los Angeles entered play as the No. 4 seed but just four games ahead of the play-in tournament for the Nos. 7-10 seeds. It is feasible it could fall into that play-in group if the two stars remain sidelined for much longer, which would make the run through the daunting Western Conference all the more difficult.
The Lakers also didn’t make any trades to improve their roster in the meantime either despite being linked to Kyle Lowry.
To the backcourt’s credit, it came out like it didn’t need the Toronto Raptors star. Schroder and Caldwell-Pope kept the Purple and Gold within striking distance as the former scored and facilitated from the lane while the latter found his stroke from deep and created turnovers on the other end.
Kuzma also put up solid scoring numbers, and Harrell was unstoppable in the fourth quarter while spearheading the comeback effort. Still, it fell short in large part because of a lackluster third quarter.
Ultimately, there just isn’t enough talent on the floor for the Lakers as currently constructed to compete against the league’s best teams for a full 48 minutes. Even though they looked formidable for stretches, they had no answer for Philadelphia’s balance and depth without their two superstars to counter.
Los Angeles is still on the shortlist of title contenders, but it will likely need to emerge from the Western Conference without home-court advantage.
The Lakers host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, while the 76ers stay in Los Angeles and face the Clippers on Saturday.