Sixers-Lakers observations: Joel Embiid posts career-high 46 points

Sixers-Lakers observations: Joel Embiid posts career-high 46 points


LOS ANGELES — After a summer of hype and banter, it was all about Joel Embiid in the Sixers’ 115-109 win over the Lakers at the STAPLES Center on Wednesday night.

The Sixers’ first matchup of the season against the Lakers had nothing to do with LaVar Ball or swapping insults. Embiid put together a ridiculous 46-point performance, including 28 in the second half. He shot 14 for 20 from the field, 16 for 19 from the line and 2 for 3 from beyond the arc. Embiid added 15 rebounds, seven assists and seven blocks (more on the history behind the numbers). Did I mention, he did all of that in 34 minutes?

Ball, on the other hand, disappeared on the court. He scored only two points off 1 for 9 shooting from the field and 0 for 6 from three. Ball grabbed five boards and dished two assists in 21 minutes. He did not play in the fourth quarter.

The Sixers improved to 8-6 overall with the win and capped off their five-game road trip with a 3-2 mark.

• It was just another day at work for Ben Simmons. He recorded his ninth double-double with 18 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists in 39 minutes (see highlights). He also added five steals.

Simmons continued to elevate. He had two dunks in the opening four minutes alone. The matchup between Simmons and Kyle Kuzma turned out to be more intriguing to watch than Simmons and Ball. Simmons and Kuzma are similarly matched in height. 

• The Sixers’ 13-point lead halfway through the first quarter was nearly erased by the end of the frame when the Lakers closed on a 9-3 run. Second quarter, repeat. The Sixers lost hold of a 10-point advantage with two minutes to go in the half and were up just four after two periods. 

• The third was bookended by ties. The Sixers went cold at the end of the quarter, scoring just three points in the final 4:51 as the Lakers took an 84-83 lead. The Sixers fed off Embiid in the fourth and outscored the Lakers 10-5 to end the game. 

• The three-point shooting was hard to watch. The Lakers went 3 for 26 (11.5 percent) from long range, which barely edged out by the Sixers’ 7-for-32 (21.9 percent) performance. JJ Redick uncharacteristically shot 0 for 8 from distance in 34 minutes and Dario Saric struggled (1 for 7). 

On the other side, an 0 for 5 Brook Lopez added to Ball’s 0-for-6 outing. 

• The young potential of each team was obvious as was the inexperience at times, from turnovers to runs to technical fouls. The Sixers gave up 15 points off 16 turnovers. 

• Before the game, Robert Covington’s teammates echoed the same sentiment around the locker room about his contract extension: well-deserved. The four-year deal is not finalized yet (see story)

• Kuzma didn’t just try to dunk on Embiid, he tried to demolish the basket. He ended up drawing the foul, but showed zero hesitation going up against the Sixers’ big man. 

• Injury update: Jerryd Bayless (left wrist), Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) were sidelined on the Sixers’ bench. Larry Nance Jr. (left hand) was out for the Lakers. 

Best of NBA: Rockets rally past Pelicans in high-scoring affair

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Best of NBA: Rockets rally past Pelicans in high-scoring affair

HOUSTON -- Clint Capela had a career-high 28 points and James Harden scored 12 straight points for Houston in the fourth quarter as the Rockets rallied for a 130-123 victory to extend their winning streak to 10 games on Monday night.

The game was tied with about three minutes remaining after Harden made two free throws. Those were the first of seven straight points by Harden that put Houston's up 124-119 with 1:30 left.

Jrue Holiday made a basket after that, but Harden hit a 3-pointer seconds later to push the lead to 127-121. Harden stole the ball from E'Twaun Moore after a timeout by New Orleans. He was fouled and made both free throws to make it 129-121 with 34 seconds left.

After scoring 48 points in Houston's last game, Harden finished with 26 on Monday, but he tied a career-high with 17 assists, finding the 6-foot-10 Capela under the basket again and again.

Holiday had a season-high 37 points for the Pelicans. Moore had a career-high 36 points and made a career-most six 3-pointers on a night New Orleans set a franchise record with 18 3-pointers (see full recap).

Mirotic, Portis help Bulls blow out Celtics
CHICAGO -- Nikola Mirotic scored 24 points, Bobby Portis added a career-high 23 and the Chicago Bulls blew out Boston 108-85 on Monday night with Celtics star Kyrie Irving sidelined because of a bruised left quadriceps.

Owners of the NBA's worst record, the Bulls built an 18-point lead in the second quarter against the Eastern Conference leaders. And when Boston cut it to 12 in the fourth, the Bulls simply pulled away for their third straight win.

Mirotic made his first start of the season with leading scorer Lauri Markkanen sidelined because of back spasms. The 6-foot-10 forward hit 9 of 14 shots and grabbed eight rebounds in his third appearance.

Portis shot 10 of 15 and nailed all three 3-pointers.

Before Monday night, Mirotic and Portis had only made headlines together this season for the wrong reasons. Mirotic missed the first 23 games with facial fractures he suffered in a fight at practice with Portis.

Al Horford scored 15 for Boston. Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier added 13 points apiece in the Celtics' most lopsided loss of the season (see full recap).

Howard, struggling Hornets roll past Thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Dwight Howard scored 23 points to help the Charlotte Hornets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 116-103 on Monday night.

Kemba Walker had 19 points for the Hornets, who had lost seven of eight. Marvin Williams scored 18, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 17 points.

It was Charlotte's second road win of the season in 12 tries.

Russell Westbrook had 30 points and seven assists and Paul George scored 20 points for the Thunder after missing the previous two games with a right calf contusion.

Charlotte shot 53 percent from the field against one of the league's best defensive teams. The Bobcats made 13 of 25 3-point attempts (see full recap).

'Playing like a high school team' plaguing Sixers during losing streak

'Playing like a high school team' plaguing Sixers during losing streak

NEW ORLEANS — The Sixers have hit a four-game skid and there is not a clearly defined way out of it thanks to a laundry list of injuries.

“I think it’s painfully obvious,” Brett Brown said of what needs to be done. “Let’s get our better players back in a uniform.”

The Sixers have to play their best with their pieces available down two starters (Joel Embiid, Robert Covington) and a key bench player (T.J. McConnell).

There are adjustments that can be made to prevent a losing streak from spiraling the Sixers down in the standings.

“We need to be just smarter,” Dario Saric said. “I know we are a young team. I know are playing without Joel, without our very important players … we need to find a way. We need to be more calm down, don’t be nervous, especially on defense.” 

Saric pointed to the Sixers’ late-game defense in their 131-124 loss to the Pelicans (see observations). They were tied with eight minutes to play before the Pelicans hit threes on their next four straight possessions. Jrue Holiday drained four treys himself during a five-minute stretch to push the lead to 11. The Sixers were outscored 44-29 in the fourth quarter.

“In that situation, to me, we are playing like a high school team,” Saric said. “That cannot happen. We need to be smarter at that point. I hope we will grow up and we will be mentally ready for that last five, six, seven minutes.”

The Sixers also were in the position to come back Saturday in Cleveland. They trailed the Cavaliers, 99-98, with 1:39 to play and did not score after that point.

It was during that final stretch when Covington landed out of bounds and suffered a lower back contusion. A day later, Embiid was a late scratch because of lower back tightness (see story). McConnell has missed five of the last six games with a left shoulder injury.

“We’ve got to be consistent with making the right plays every time,” Ben Simmons said. “It’s hard to make mistakes without those guys there. When you make mistakes and you don’t have Jo or Cov and guys like that to make up for that, it’s tough. But we’ve got to just come together as a team and get through it.” 

The Sixers don't have it easy their next two games. They face the Timberwolves (16-11) Tuesday in Minnesota when Embiid said he expects to play but has not been cleared. Covington is doubtful, while McConnell's status is to be determined. The Sixers return home Friday from a three-game road trip to host the Thunder (12-13).