Two games in and the new-look Sixers are looking like a problem.
LeBron James may have been in the building, but it was the Sixers' stars who shined in a 143-120 win over the Lakers on Sunday at Wells Fargo Center.
The win improves the Sixers to 23-6 at home and 36-20 overall.
Joel Embiid returned to his dominant form, Tobias Harris looked more aggressive in his second game, and the team's starting five looked unstoppable at times.
Here are observations from the win.
• Brett Brown said again pregame that Embiid is still “the crown jewel” and the All-Star center reminded everyone of that in the national spotlight.
After struggling Friday night and being questionable again Saturday while dealing with a stomach bug, Embiid looked spry. There were at least two plays where the Lakers flat out forgot about Embiid — somehow — and it led to easy buckets. That seemed to help Embiid get going early as he had 25 points at the half.
On one play Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got switched on to the All-Star center. Embiid pulled a dream shake-like move and buried a fadeaway. It’s just unfair what this guy can do at over seven feet tall. There were a couple sequences where Embiid got a little overzealous bringing the ball up the floor, which led to turnovers or not great shots. It didn't make the possessions any less entertaining.
He finished with 37 points and 14 rebounds for his league-leading 46th double-double.
• What continues to stand out about Harris is his all-around game. Sure, his elite three-point shooting has already been a very welcomed addition to the Sixers, but he offers so much more. He’s able to pull the ball off the rim and bring it up court, similar to what Ben Simmons does.
The other aspect of his game that stood out early was his physicality around the rim. It’s not something that’s typical from him, but he certainly showed he could play a little bully ball when matched up on smaller players.
The only player that would’ve had any shot at containing Harris would’ve been LeBron James, but James was busy chasing Simmons around. Harris is just one more matchup nightmare for Sixers’ opponents.
Has made first six shots for 14 first-quarter points on his way to a 22-points, six-rebound and six-assist performance.
• There are certainly kinks that need to be worked out, but this starting five shows glimpses of being completely and utterly dominant.
The ball movement at times is an absolute thing of beauty. If there were any issues with guys not getting enough touches or shots, you wouldn’t know it. The ball never seems to stick and all five guys are playing an unselfish brand of basketball. They also turned the ball over just seven times. If you’re a team that likes to switch, you better be able to do it one through five against these guys.
The versatility and length they now have on defense is scary. The communication is still an issue. On one possession, Simmons literally pushed Harris out to complete a switch. You can see defense is where the biggest growing pains are, not just with the starting five but with all of the new pieces.
• There have been concerns about Jimmy Butler and his place in the offense since he was traded here. With Harris’ arrival, that situation seemed like it was only going to get murkier, but that hasn’t really been the case.
If anything, Butler has been more aggressive, something Brown has said repeatedly he's wanted to see. After hitting 14 of 14 free throws vs. Denver, Butler didn't get to the line as often, but was definitely making a concerted effort to get to the rim, finishing with 15 points on an effecient 6 of 10 from the field in 30 minutes. Surely Harris' presence has helped loosen things up for him.
• I was wondering when I’d get to type this sentence for the first time: Ben Simmons took a three-pointer (see story).
Not a halfcourt heave at the end of a quarter, but a legitimate NBA three. He actually just missed it, as the ball rimmed out. This is a huge development if he continues to put them up. If he makes them, look out.
Overall, Simmons had a rough shooting day. Who knows if it was the matchup against his mentor James, but Simmons was aggressive early. He went just 2 of 9 from the field in the first half and 3 of 13 for the game. The good news is Simmons turned the ball over just two times after he did so nine times against Denver. He does tend to turn the ball over less when he’s decisive and looking for his own shot.
• Speaking of James, he was booed lustily on his first touch. It was his first appearance in Philadelphia as a Laker since he chose Los Angeles. His representatives met with the Sixers over the summer, but it didn't appear that James was ever seriously considering Philadelphia as his destination. He nearly netted a triple-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
• Kyle Kuzma couldn’t miss early for the Lakers, making 4 of first 5 from three. One of several young players Los Angeles dangled to the Pelicans for Anthony Davis, Kuzma had one of this better games as a pro, pouring in 39 points on 14 of 21 overall.
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