Harden and 76ers get the best of the Lakers

LOS ANGELES (News4usonline) – With LeBron James and Anthony Davis sitting in street clothes, the Los Angeles Lakers gave the Philadelphia 76ers a good fight. But that effort was not good enough to come away with a win at Cyrpto.com Arena. Despite getting four players to contribute 20 points or more, Frank Vogel’s Lakers just didn’t have the firepower to beat the 76ers.

“We’re continuing to grow,” Vogel said in his postgame comments. “I think this game, we’re disappointed we lost, but without Bron, without AD, I think the group that played tonight showed everyone that we still got a whole lot of fight left in us. I was proud of how we competed.

Vogel continued, “We continued to evolve. When we get to the finish line of the 82 games, again, we’re not going to be the same exact group that played 10 games under-500 basketball. That’s the goal. What can we build that’s going to win for us in the postseason, in the play-in games. We’re making progress with that.”

The Lakers outscored Philadelphia in the third quarter and then dropped 30 points on the visiting 76ers in the fourth period. On most nights that would be good enough for a victory. This was not most nights. And the 76ers are not just any team. Sixers coach Doc Rivers has center Joel Embiid at his disposal.

That’s not to mention the James Harden factor. With Super Bowl champ and Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp taking in the game as he sat courtside, Embiid and Harden combined for 54 points to lead Philadelphia to a 126-121 win against the Lakers.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook finds himself surrounded by Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) and former teammate James Harden in an NBA game played at Crypto.com Arena. Behind Embiid’s 30 points and 10 rebounds, the 76ers beat the Lakers 126-121 on March 23, 2022. Courtesy photo

Embiid put up a double-double with 30 points and 10 rebounds, while Harden contributed 24 points to help Philadelphia stay within striking distance of the Eastern Conference-leading Miami Heat.

“We won the game, I’ll just leave it at that,” Rivers said. “We played and won the game. It wasn’t a masterpiece at all. I just think we- maybe sometimes we look at a different lens. We scored 126 points and we shot 52%; I thought we weren’t very good offensively which is amazing when you think about it like, how good we should be and can be.”

This win for the 76ers did not come easy when you consider that James Davis and Talen Horton Tucker were all on the bench. The Lakers scored 69 points against a poorly-performing defense of the 76ers over the last two periods of the game, and nearly overcame a double-digit deficit.

After outscoring Philadelphia 39-30 in the third quarter, the Lakers closed a one-time 14-point deficit in the period down to two points. The Lakers would no closer than that as Philadelphia methodically re-built their advantage.

“It felt great when we were up and terrible when we were letting them come back in the game,” said 76ers forward Tobias Harris, who finished the game with 20 points and seven rebounds in his team’s winning effort. “Overall, we know we gotta be better and can be better. I thought we had some good stretches where we controlled what was going on offensively and defensively. We had some very bad stretches, so for us to just figure out that balance, putting our minds to it and being locked in.”

With their two superstars watching the game from the bench, the Lakers got solid efforts from Dwight Howard and Russell Westbrook. Both players scored 24 points. Malik Monk added 23 points while Carmelo Anthony contributed 20 points in the Lakers’ 42nd defeat of the season.

“I just think that guys are really trying to find ways to be effective on the court and we’re trying to play off of each other,” Howard said. “It took a good chunk of the season to kind of figure certain things out, but it’s been working to our favor as of late. We just need to get that defensive push. That’ll really get us going.”

The Lakers are in ninth place in the Western Conference. The hope for Vogel and for the Lakers is to get everyone back healthy and ready to go for the play-in tournament in the postseason. But the Lakers have to get there first. The Lakers have very little wiggle room to make the postseason. If the team goes on a mini-losing streak from here on out to the end of the regular season, that would spell trouble for their playoff chances.

For the Lakers, the road to the postseason begins with two dates with the New Orleans Pelicans, a team that sits 10th in the Western Conference standings. The Lakers get their first crack at the Pelicans, a team that beat them by 30 points the last time the two teams played one another, on Oscars night.

“It’s a game that we definitely want to win, and I think if we have our mindset in the right place, do what we’ve been doing, playing the right proper basketball, we put ourselves in position to be able to win the game. It’s going to be a playoff-type of atmosphere for us because it’s a must-win I believe for our group.”

While the Lakers struggle to make the playoffs, Philadelphia has no such issue. Rivers and the 76ers are playing for the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference. With Embiid being considered as the league’s MVP, Philadelphia has different worries than what the Lakers are trying to do.

“I just want to go out there every single night just play hard, not taking plays off, whether that’s offensively or defensively, and just live with the results,” Embiid said. “I got great teammates that make the game easy for me. I try to make the game easy for them, too. I’m just glad we’re playing well and winning.”