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.