Sixers fall to 0-2 on road trip after 94-101 loss to Lakers

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Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, center, shoots against Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., right, and forward Paul Reed during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 22, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The Philadelphia 76ers are amid one of the most challenging stretches of the season, a four-game Western Conference road trip featuring matchups against the Suns, Lakers, Clippers, and Kings.

After dropping their first game in Phoenix, the Sixers traveled to Los Angeles to face off against LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Coming into the night sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, winning at least one game, keeping in mind this was arguably the most winnable game of the trip, would be enough to consider it a success. Unfortunately, that did not come to fruition against LA.

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Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, center, and Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris, left, vie for a rebound during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 22, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The first quarter began unceremoniously enough, with both squads showing an inability to score. The Sixers struggled to shoot, knocking down just nine of twenty-five attempts. The Lakers, also inefficient from the field, shooting under 40 percent, suffered from self-inflicted as well, committing three turnovers in the first.

The second quarter brought a bit more success for the Sixers, much of which was tied to the improved play of Tobias Harris. To set the scene, Harris spent the first quarter shooting two of eight from the field while playing some signature “Tobi-ball” along the way. On the other end of the floor, Harris took one of the toughest assignments, guarding LeBron James, whom Harris proceeded to lose track of on multiple occasions.

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Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris (12) defends against Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 22, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

To Harris’ credit, it wouldn’t be a fair criticism if one did not acknowledge his successes; Harris tightened things up defensively and found his offensive groove, if only for a moment. Harris made three of his first four shots after the second quarter, and for a time, it looked as though he had finally worked through his demons. If only the game ended at the half.

That thought remains especially true considering how the Sixers finished the first half of action.

Come the third quarter, the Sixers continued to hold their slim lead, but the air of excitement began to dissipate. The fourth quarter found Philadelphia holding just a one-point lead over their hosts, a tenuous position at best considering the team’s recent play in the fourth.

After removing the games in which the Sixers’ deep bench piled up empty-calorie scoring in a blowout, Philadelphia is a -58 against the opposition over their last ten games. That’s an average of just under six points a game they’re giving up in the fourth. Tonight against the Lakers, they were again outscored, this time by eight.

This game was winnable; that is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the night. If Harris and Oubre hadn’t each shot 33 percent from the floor, if Tyrese Maxey wasn’t one of nine from deep, if the Sixers as a team were capable of taking advantage of the Lakers’ many turnovers, this game could have ended differently. Instead, the Sixers will now wait until Sunday for their next chance at victory, though it will not come easy.

Up Next for the Sixers

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Los Angeles Clippers guard James Harden shoots next to Portland Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, March 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

The Sixers will next face off against the Los Angeles Clippers in a 3:30 p.m. matchup this Sunday. This game is especially notable as it will be the first time that the Sixers and James Harden face off since his dramatic departure this offseason. While it is unfortunate that Joel Embiid will miss the game as he continues his recovery, Harden is still likely to be locked and loaded as he faces his former team.

You can catch the game on ESPN 2 or NBC Sports Philadelphia, and you can listen live, as always, at 97.5 FM the Fanatic.