While the victory against the Bucks on Christmas Day was spectacular for a variety of reasons, this one against the Los Angeles Lakers may just take the prize for being the “best win of the season”.
The Lakers entered the matchup on the backs of a scorching hot season. They were 36-9 and sat firmly at the top of the Western Conference standings. The Sixers, on the other hand, were dealing with some failed expectations and some serious injury problems.
Nevertheless, the Sixers came out on top 108-91. Ben Simmons (28 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals) and Tobias Harris (29 points, 8 rebounds) both made their case to be in the All-Star game, and Philly improved to a shocking 21-2 at home.
The spotlight was absolutely huge for this primetime matchup. The national media had really hyped the game up as tons of reporters, fans, and celebrities showed for the event. Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders and Philadelphia Phillies manager Joe Girardi were just a few of the names to show out.
With the world watching and the crowd behind them, the Sixers jumped out to an early advantage. Leading 35-25 at the end of the first quarter, Philly was effective in knocking down the long ball in the opening minutes. Despite LeBron James matching up on him, Simmons was able to run the show at point guard and facilitate open looks left and right.
As the game progressed, the 76ers notably began to slow down on the offensive side of things. Harris and Simmons were still getting their points, but Brett Brown received little production from his bench crew.
Instead, the Sixers leaned heavily on their defensive tenacity during the meat of the game. Rookie Matisse Thybulle had a game-high 5 steals while Simmons had 4 of his own, and the Sixers forced LA into 21 total team turnovers. 91 points was also a season-low in scoring for the Lakers.
As the game began winding down the Lakers gave one last final push. Led by James and Anthony Davis (who combined for 60 points), the Lakers were able to cut the Sixers lead all the way down to just 5 points. With just around three minutes to go, the Sixers turned to Al Horford to close up shop.
Horford scored 7 straight points on 3/3 shooting, icing the game as Frank Vogel pulled Davis and James out for the evening. Simply a fantastic way to conclude an awesome win.
Tobias Harris Should Be An All-Star
A point I personally have reiterated many times in the last couple of weeks, Harris should be included in the All-Star game this year. While being guarded by both AD and LBJ at points, Harris poured in a team-high 29 points on 50% shooting. He was aggressive early and often, really stepping up for a team that has been missing Joel Embiid’s 20+ points a night.
Ben Simmons Does It Again
Despite being repeatedly slandered by the national media and his own fans alike, Simmons continues to show out in big games. Simmons was simply electric on offense. He posted a near triple-double while missing just three shots all night.
If that wasn’t enough as it is, Simmons did all of that while mainly guarding LeBron James on defense. Although LBJ did end up with 29 points (moving him into third all-time in scoring), he also finished the game with a shocking eight turnovers. Simply phenomenal stuff from Simmons on both ends of the floor.
(Strange but true: Simmons had a tooth knocked out at some point during the evening, he played through the pain and finished the game).
Next Man Up Mentality
The Embiid finger was bad enough as it was, but after it was announced that Josh Richardson would also be missing some action due to injury, most fans writ off the next couple of games as losses. However, it looked like the Sixers didn’t even miss a beat in tonight’s high stakes matchup. Horford was great down the stretch and former G-League guard Shake Milton impressed as he filled in for JRich in the starting rotation. He had 7 points and 9 rebounds with a +/- of +12.
After the game, Horford himself described the victory by saying, “It was a big win”, and I agree. This wasn’t any ordinary win, beating the Lakers without two of your starters is a huge deal. With that said, the Sixers have to remain focused on continuing to climb the ever contested Eastern Conference standings.
Two likely wins on the horizon with Golden State and Atlanta up next.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports