The consensus around the Sixers’ locker room following their 107-104 loss to the Lakers was a failure to execute the game plan (see observations). They had two days after being upset by the Suns to map out a strategy against the Lakers, who they already beat once this season.
However, that didn't matter as the Sixers' comeback bid Thursday ended when Brandon Ingram drained a wide-open three-pointer with 0.8 remaining on the clock to snap the Lakers' five-game skid.
So what went wrong? The thing is, there’s not one clear-cut error to pinpoint. The players saw the missteps from different perspectives.
Lack of early defensive intensity
The Sixers gave up 32 points in the first quarter and trailed by 13 in the period. They let Ingram get hot as he scored 10 of his 21 points in his first 11 minutes.
Rather than setting the tone at home, the Sixers allowed the Lakers to find a rhythm.
“I think that we were just playing conservative,” Brett Brown said. “We were trying to play fundamentally correct and conservative and keep the game in front of us and sometimes, a lot of times, that isn’t always the answer. You walk that tightrope of, ‘Well, you lead the NBA in fouls,’ yet you want to play with a sting. So sometimes they contradict each other. Somewhere in the middle is what I wish we played more of and I think that’s part of growing our team.”
Lopsided offensive rebounds
The Sixers made limiting the Lakers’ offensive rebounds a point of emphasis leading up to the game. The Lakers were aggressive on the glass and dominated the Sixers, 15-7, on offensive boards. Sixers opponents have averaged 9.9 offensive rebounds this season.
“The game plan was we’ve got to rebound the ball. I didn’t do that tonight,” Joel Embiid, who finished with seven boards, said (see highlights). “That’s one of the reasons why we lost it. I think the main thing was just offensive rebounds. They were active and they got what they wanted.”
Robert Covington targeted multiple areas of improvement, one of them being second-chance points. The Lakers scored twice as many as the Sixers, 22 to 11, which tied back to their offensive rebounds and aggressiveness fighting for loose balls.
“We’ve got to be more mindful of the way the game’s flowing and how that team plays,” Covington said. “They’re a young team, downhill … we’ve got to make sure in order for us to be successful, we have to stick to the game plan. And tonight was one time we didn’t.”
Executing the offense
Ben Simmons, who notched his third triple-double of the season (see highlights), looked at the loss from a point guard's perspective. He saw missed opportunities to get into the offensive schemes the Sixers had practiced.
The offensive production was imbalanced between starters and the bench. Richaun Holmes was the only reserve to score the entire game. He had two points through three quarters before netting 11 in the fourth.
“I think it’s just calling the right sets and then knowing where the ball needs to be and know what we need to run,” Simmons said. “That’s what it really comes down to.”
In a game like this, it goes without saying the Sixers needed to limit turnovers. They committed 18, which led to 25 points or nearly a quarter of the Lakers' total. Embiid, Simmons and JJ Redick each had four turnovers.