Sixers 143, Lakers 120: Sixers crush Lakers behind explosive offense

Sixers 143, Lakers 120: Sixers crush Lakers behind explosive offense


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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NBA owners reportedly expected to approve plan for return

NBA owners reportedly expected to approve plan for return

Updated, Wednesday, 3 p.m.

According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, NBA commissioner Adam Silver intends to propose a 22-team plan to resume the 2019-20 season at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the NBA's Board of Governors has a call at 12:30 p.m. ET Thursday and is expected to approve Silver's plan. 

Silver is targeting a date of July 31 to resume play, per Charania. The season has been suspended since March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

What exactly would a 22-team return look like? Each team would play eight regular-season games to determine playoff seeding, and the six teams outside of those in a playoff position at the moment would be the Pelicans, Trail Blazers, Suns, Kings, Spurs and Wizards, Wojnarowski reported.

According to Yahoo Sports' Vince Goodwill, teams would continue with their schedule as originally planned. If a team is slated to play one of the eight teams not included, it would move on to the next game on its schedule. The Sixers had a relatively easy remaining schedule, so the elimination of non-contending teams would be a slight negative for them. They had a stretch of games set for March 19-26 against Charlotte, Atlanta, Minnesota and Chicago.

Here's what their remaining schedule could look like, based on Goodwill's reporting:

Vs. Indiana 
Vs. Washington
Vs. Toronto 
Vs. Phoenix 
Vs. Portland 
Vs. Houston
At Washington
Vs. Orlando 

At 39-26, the Sixers are currently the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. While they're 8.5 games ahead of the Nets, the seventh seed, the Sixers could have an opportunity to rise in the standings. The final regular-season games could also impact the Sixers in the NBA draft. The team owns Oklahoma City's first-round pick, but that selection is top-20 protected, meaning it won't convey if the Thunder don't finish with one of the league's 11 best records.

There would be a play-in tournament if the ninth seed is within four games of the eighth seed at the end of the regular season, Charania reported. If that's not the case, the eight seed would go straight to the playoffs. That won't apply to the Sixers, since they're not on the playoff bubble.

Still, the play-in tournament might impact the probability of early upsets, one way or another. It remains to be seen whether a team performing well in the play-in tournament would carry over to the playoffs, or whether it would be adversely impacted by the extra games played. Both factors could have an influence. 

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Sixers' Tobias Harris delivers strong message about racism, police brutality in personal essay

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Sixers' Tobias Harris delivers strong message about racism, police brutality in personal essay

In an essay published Wednesday morning in The Players’ Tribune, Tobias Harris delivered a strong message about racism and police brutality in America while also providing insight into how his perceptions about race have been shaped. 

The piece is headlined, “Y’all Hear Us, But You Ain’t Listening.” Harris begins by framing the conversation about the death of 46-year-old black man George Floyd, who was killed last week in police custody when Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for over eight minutes. Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, while the three other officers on the scene were fired but haven’t been charged.

“But if we gon’ talk about what happened to George Floyd,” Harris writes, “there needs to be a baseline acknowledgement of the reality: A white police officer killed an unarmed black man, and he was able to do it in broad daylight, with three other cops watching, because of the color of his skin.

“And don’t reply to me with, ‘Oh, but this person did this.’ Don’t try and make excuses, or say this isn’t about race. In a lot of my conversations with white people lately, I’m getting that statement over and over again: ‘Let’s stop making this about race.’” 

Harris draws a sharp juxtaposition between President Donald Trump’s characterization of protestors against stay-at-home orders in place because of the coronavirus pandemic and Trump's language about protestors who have marched around the country in the aftermath of Floyd’s death. 

Last month, armed men took over the steps of Michigan’s capitol building. To protest the QUARANTINE.

And what did the President call them?

'Good people.'

But we go out and protest that another black life has been taken senselessly, and we’re 'THUGS.'

Come on.

This is why black Americans are angry.

Harris writes that “the killing of Trayvon Martin was a turning point for me.” 

“When he was killed, all because he looked ‘suspicious’ for wearing a black hoodie at night in his own neighborhood, I realized that that could have been my brother,” he writes. “Once you really sit with that, it’s a really scary feeling. I had to get out of my own NBA bubble, and understand that there’s a different world out there. Not everybody can get in a nice car every day, drive to work, come home, work out, and be O.K. People go through different s---. Every. Single. Day. I had to come to grips with that.”

He later reflects on the obligation he feels to speak on behalf of black people who don’t play in the NBA or have celebrity status and cites the late Muhammad Ali as an inspiration.

The way I look at it? If people in my community are oppressed, then so am I. Shout out to Muhammad Ali, one of the biggest role models in my life, for showing the way. He was never scared to take a stand against INJUSTICE.

"I’ve also had to get uncomfortable in knowing who I am — knowing that, yeah, I made it to the NBA, and that’s changed some things for me in terms of how I’m treated. I don’t have it the same as the next person. I’ve come to grips with the fact that yes, I’m black, but that dude that’s getting pulled over by a cop in his car, he don’t have the luxury of that officer recognizing him.

"That’s the problem. The difference between a cop recognizing you or not shouldn’t be life or death. 

Harris says he’s glad he protested on Saturday in Philadelphia after regretting a missed opportunity to march in Orlando in 2013, about a year after Martin’s death.

“On Saturday in Philly, it was about a togetherness of people pushing out a message. And that message was really about respect. It was about people respecting others, and understanding their hurt and their pain.”

Another interesting topic Harris covers is the deficiencies he sees in what kids are taught about black history, and his individual efforts to fill in knowledge gaps. He also covers his own work mentoring young people in the Philadelphia area and the disparities he’s observed “between a school in North Philly out here, and a school in the Main Line of Lower Merion.”

The entire piece is worth a read. 

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