In one of the uglier things you'll ever see (right up there with the aliens from The Faculty) the Lakers beat the 76ers 93-84 at the Staples Center. Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson finished with a combined 43 points, many during the first six minutes of the fourth quarter which turned a close game into a blowout.
The Sixers ran half of the fourth quarter with a lineup featuring a backup-centric lineup of T.J. McConnell, Isaiah Canaan, Nik Stauskas, Robert Covington, and Jahlil Okafor which gave up more than 20 points and committed six turnovers. Turnovers early from Okafor and Canaan led to six points in the first minute, and it never got close again. Okafor finished with 12 points in 22 minutes and some nifty offense, but his effort level reflected "went out for New Year's Eve in LA" and not "actively engaged" tonight.
But pointing to that as the primary cause for the loss, and not the abysmal shooting throughout the game from Ish Smith, Canaan, and Stauskas would be inaccurate. McConnell had a strong first half and shot 5-6; the other guards combined for 7-39 shooting and 20 points. When your guards average half a point per shot, free throws included, you're not going to win many games.
That negated any positives that Nerlens Noel could have provided. Noel continued his strong run of play with a 15-12-3-3-3 line in 28 minutes and his swarming defense. He continued to play well as the primary center, and I hope the team recognizes this and continues with the current arrangement.
1. Kobe Bryant and Hollis Thompson missed the game due to injury. The Sixers win in December will be the last time Kobe played against the Sixers.
2. Noel and Okafor shared the court for two minutes, to mixed results. The Sixers put Smith, Canaan, and Covington on the court with them. First, the Sixers ran nearly all pick-and-roll plays with Ish and Noel, with Okafor weakside. It's a complete shift from their normal strategy. Second, nothing worked. The lane was clogged with no alley-oop opportunities, and the Lakers were content with leaving Okafor open. He did not make them pay with jumpers.
3. Along with the noted guard struggles, the Sixers shot 4-24 on threes. The long rebounds led to fast break chances, where the Lakers had a 29-16 advantage. Julius Randle was especially difficult to stop in transition for the Sixers.
4. Jerry Colangelo joined the Sixers broadcast booth with Marc Zumoff and Alaa Abdelnaby in the second quarter. You're not going to get much of a recap from me. The appearance was both to discuss his thoughts on the Sixers young core (which he says he believes has upside and just needs time to improve) and to plug his autobiography. Not even joking about the book plug.
I didn't pay *that* much attention, however, as he offers different answers to the same questions as evidenced by his post-hiring media tour. Can't hang my thoughts on words that will change with the interviewers.
5. The Sixers are now 4.5 games behind the Lakers in the NBA standings, which means they have a 4.5 game lead for the highest NBA draft lottery odds. The Lakers are 2 games behind the Nets for the third-worst record in the league. Given the current standings, the Sixers would have a 27.8% chance at #1 and a 44.2% chance for getting the Lakers-owned pick.
Go to Silver Screen and Roll for the Lakers celebration, if that's what they're choosing to do.