Monday night, the Philadelphia 76ers handed the Los Angeles Lakers their fifth-worst loss in franchise history. Behind this herculean effort by the Sixers, three things stood out:
Something special in the air
The game last night was circled on a lot of calendars for Philly fans. Why? When the Lakers come to town, it’s a big deal. Those who dropped a pretty penny on tickets knew that stars would be in the building for LeBron James for his only appearance this season.
Not to mention the historic rivalry that goes back decades which creates a nostalgic feeling for old-school Sixers fans. The matchup even attracted Jalen Hurts, who was fresh off a comeback win against the Buffalo Bills Sunday afternoon.
Could the Lakers coming to town have been the reason why Joel Embiid had his first triple-double of the season? There did seem to be some extra pep in his step. He admitted after the game that the Lakers were his favorite team growing up, mentioning Kobe Bryant’s impact on his development.
It was peculiar that Embiid, who typically subs out before Tyrese Maxey, actually played more minutes in the first quarter, despite having two fouls. It is no surprise that Embiid rose to the occasion against his generation’s G.O.A.T. while also being aware of his match-up with Anthony Davis.
Embiid stepped his game up in more ways than one. He was more than just a scorer. He was also a facilitator, making sharp passes while using patience and vision to help his teammates score. He also was hitting the offensive boards aggressively. He ended up with 30 points, 11 assists, and 11 rebounds.
The Sixers boast an elite tandem
Assists are up this year under Nick Nurse for the Sixers. Among those who have seen the most noticeable improvement are Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey.
Last night, they continued to display one of the most potent and effective two-man games in the league. Without James Harden, Maxey is now in a position to orchestrate the pick-and-roll and dribble handoffs with the reigning league MVP. It is a thing of beauty.
If you look in the first quarter, we saw exactly how in tune the Sixers tandem can be. On the perimeter, Embiid waited for Maxey to come around to receive the ball, went right to left, received the pass, and pulled up in rhythm for three. Swish.
The threat of either of them scoring while defenders pick their poison has them both averaging over 26 points a game. Too much focus on Embiid, and Maxey will blow past either defender. Sag off of Maxey and he’ll raise up for three. Conversely, pay too much attention to Maxey and Embiid rolls to the rim for an easy basket or pulls up for one of his patented mid-range jumpers after a pass for Maxey.
It’s raining threes, hallelujah
At the Wells Fargo Center against Los Angeles, the Sixers almost set a franchise record for three-pointers made. Collectively, they went 22-46 on the night. Quite frankly, everyone was getting in on the barrage of perimeter shots. Whether it was Nicolas Batum, Patrick Beverley, or De’Anthony Melton, the Sixers stars had help with the offensive load.
One of the benefits of Maxey taking on more of the distributor role is his teammates getting clear shots beyond the three-point line. The perfect example of this was in the first half when Maxey was quickly double-teamed at the three-point line, he made the quick decision to pass the ball to Patrick Beverley. Beverley, who had the hot hand, received the pass in the corner and knocked down a wide-open three-point shot.
Some guys have just been hot in recent days. Marcus Morris Sr., who is adjusting to his new role off the bench for the Sixers, also had a hot hand knocking down three-pointers. In his last three games, Morris is 7-12 from three.
Even Paul Reed knocked down a triple in garbage time. Reed attracted attention before the game, accusing Anthony Davis of being a flopper. In the end, Reed may not have outplayed the Los Angeles star, but his Sixers enjoyed the home win while handing LeBron and company one of the worst losses in Lakers franchise history.