Tuesday night, the Sixers beat the shorthanded Los Angeles Lakers 121-105 at the STAPLES Center, in a game that often felt much closer than the score suggested.
The Sixers jumped all over LA to begin the game — Ben, Jimmy and Joel were playing the passing lanes and getting out in transition early and often, en route to a 39-20 first frame.
It was in that first quarter, as the Lakers and their young players looked particularly sluggish and unremarkable, that I tweeted this from the LB account:
Brandon Ingram really flashing that transcendent talent!— Liberty Ballers (@Liberty_Ballers) January 30, 2019
Of course, Brandon Ingram finished with a career-high 36 points on 16-for-20 shooting. I sincerely apologize.
The second quarter was a disappointment for the road Sixers, as the Lakers surged to a 16-0 run and won the quarter by eight.
The game featured a few different spells of the Sixers running Jimmy Butler as the team’s nominal point guard while Ben Simmons sat. Those sequences and the lineups they featured were encouraging and intriguing, as Butler represents a unicorn of sorts for this team: a player who can handle, pass, shoot, and drive. As a result of this experiment, the unexpected consequence was unfortunately what felt like an eternity of Ben Simmons and T.J. McConnell minutes. It would behoove the Sixers to do away with those lineups as much as possible, as Ben needs to be flanked by as many shooters as possible when the other stars sit.
The other main storyline from this game came with about seven minutes remaining in the 4th quarter, when Joel Embiid missed an alley-oop from Simmons and fell awkwardly to the hardwood, immediately grabbing for his recently ailing lower back. Embiid went to the locker room and “stretched it out” per the Sixers.
You’re not going to believe this, but the Sixers let the Lakers back into the game a bit down the stretch, and Embiid returned to the court with Butler and JJ Redick. After the game, Joel told TNT that he’s fine, but it’s certainly something to watch.
Embiid finished with 28 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists.
Simmons had 19 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists.
Butler had 20 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 steals. This was Jimmy’s best defensive game as a Sixer, to my eye, as he also made some big winning plays when he was reinserted down the stretch.
Up next, the Sixers go to Golden State to play the defending champion Warriors on Thursday night.