James Harden and Joel Embiid returned to the lineup Wednesday night, as the Sixers started their West Coast trip by knocking off the Los Angeles Lakers, 126-121. Despite looking like the better team for nearly the whole game, the Sixers let the Lakers hang around all evening. Embiid had yet another 30-point game, along with 10 rebounds, three steals and three blocks on 61.8 percent true shooting. Harden got off to a slow start but finished with 24-7-7. Tyrese Maxey continued to be an efficient dynamo, giving the Sixers 21 points on 70.6 percent true shooting. Here are some thoughts and observations from the win.
- The Sixers definitely got off to the hot start one would expect against a Lakers team without LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Sixers hung around in a zone for most of the first quarter, to little success. Stanley Johnson opened 5-of-5 (3-of-3 from downtown) and had 13 points in the quarter, for goodness sake.
- A little more tinkering with the rotations tonight, as Harden and Embiid played nearly the whole first quarter together, while Tyrese Maxey was given the second-unit ball-handling duties. Doc Rivers went to Shake Milton early, after his season-high 20 points on Monday. Furkan Korkmaz also seems to have shot his way back into the rotation.
- Despite DeAndre Jordan being a trainwreck, Maxey, Korkmaz and Milton did a good job during the minutes with Embiid and Harden off the floor. Maxey especially excelled in the second — the Lakers simply couldn’t keep up with him. Maxey’s 11 first-half points sparked a 29-13 Sixer run to end the quarter.
- Embiid certainly looked like he was playing through pain before the half. Stanley Johnson awkwardly fell on his back after a hard foul. Despite that, Embiid managed to block a driving Russell Westbrook, score a basket down on the other end and force a turnover that resulted in a transition dunk. Just an incredible sequence for the Big Fella, all things considered.
Joel Embiid's got moves pic.twitter.com/Lx7mCVYuPm— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) March 24, 2022
- The Sixers pushed their lead to 10 and traded baskets with Los Angeles for most of the quarter. Harden, like he did against Dallas, started to come alive in the second half, with a 16-point third quarter after just a five-point first half.
- And then, a minor injury seemingly happened. It’s unclear if he tweaked the hamstring or if he just banged knees with Wenyen Gabriel. Harden had a brief trip to the locker room in between quarters, but would later return to the game. Either way, sloppy play by the Sixers allowed the Lakers to climb back into the game, cutting the lead to just two entering the fourth.
The entire Sixers bench came over to check on Harden during the timeout. He was slow to get up but looks like he's going to be OK. @Liberty_Ballers— Jas Kang (@jaskang21) March 24, 2022
- A solid job by Tobias Harris during DeAndre Jordan’s second-half stretch. Harris finished with 20-7-7 on the night and looks more comfortable in his new role. He certainly benefits from having a lob threat on the floor, even one as shaky as Jordan. Harris also hit a corner three late that was key in putting the Lakers away.
- The way Tyrese Maxey has evolved as a basketball player this season is tremendous. The leaps he has made from year one to year two are incredible. Maxey is turning into one of the best clutch players in the league. Kate Scott mentioned on the Sixers broadcast that he is shooting over 48 percent on threes in the fourth quarter. It was Maxey for the second straight game that put it away for Philly. The Lakers were really threatening to steal a win until Maxey stretched the lead to nine.
- The Sixers just can’t do anything easy. There wasn’t ever really a chance that they were going to blow the game, but boy, do they come as close as they possibly can sometimes.