The Sixers showed Thursday night that they don't need 40 or 50 points from Joel Embiid to win.
The team cruised to a 105-87 victory at Wells Fargo Center over the Lakers, who were without LeBron James because of the four-time MVP's left knee soreness. The Sixers were down Seth Curry (left ankle soreness) and Shake Milton (back contusion).
Embiid posted 26 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Tobias Harris had 23 points on 10-for-15 shooting.
Anthony Davis scored 31 points, snagged 12 rebounds and blocked four shots.
The Sixers will next play Saturday night in Philadelphia against the Kings. Here are observations on their win over the Lakers.
Davis gives Embiid a great challenge
Embiid, who entered with an absurd 42.5 points per game over his last four contests, had a formidable opponent Thursday night in Davis.
While Embiid displayed his usual expansive bag of tricks, beating double teams with pump fakes, clever footwork and agility, Davis started sharply with 10 first-quarter points and added 13 in the second quarter. Embiid missed three first-half foul shots and began 2 for 6 from the floor.
Embiid was a bit off his game in the second quarter, although he did pass Hall of Famer Moses Malone for 16th on the all-time Sixers scoring list with a mid-range jumper. He committed one second-period turnover on an offensive foul which he disputed and another on an off-target pass. Davis blocked an Embiid fadeaway jumper and made the five-time All-Star work plenty on the other end of the court. Seeing Embiid come up second best is rare these days, but it happened quite a few times Thursday against an excellent player.
He likely won’t use it as an excuse, but it’s notable that this was Embiid’s 20th straight game. Head coach Doc Rivers said pregame that the Sixers have discussed giving Embiid a day off at some point. Thus far, according to Rivers, Embiid has been resistant on occasions when the team considered sitting him this season.
Though his jumpers weren’t dropping, Embiid didn’t let that seep into frustrated, rash decision-making. He mostly took what the Lakers defense gave him when double teamed and found Tyrese Maxey (14 points, 10 assists) on a backdoor cut in the third quarter. It was also encouraging to see a visibly winded Embiid sprint down the floor late in the third and lay in an and-one hoop against Davis.
Embiid’s points exceeding his minutes has been more common lately than the opposing center outscoring him. Davis was great, though, and Embiid’s scorching run couldn’t last forever.
Good moments for both Thybulle and Green
Danny Green returned following seven games out with right hip pain. He was limited to 15 minutes but made an immediate impact, sinking two three-pointers in quick succession. Georges Niang added a transition triple soon after to put the Sixers ahead 30-20.
A lineup with Maxey next to four bench players had good tempo while also avoiding turnovers. Especially without Milton, Maxey’s ball handling has become very valuable when Embiid’s off the floor. It’s not ideal to ask Furkan Korkmaz to serve as a backup point guard all game long.
Maxey hit Drummond for an alley-oop late in the first quarter off of a double drag action. Drummond’s a menacing roller and Maxey’s a terror to guard when he drives downhill. In our eyes, that action has go-to potential when Maxey and Drummond share the court. Some more straightforward reads might be a solid idea in general with Drummond, who’s a skillful passer but can be too adventurous when asked to facilitate offense.
Matisse Thybulle (eight points, four steals) started in his second game back from a right shoulder sprain. Thybulle’s primary defensive matchup was Russell Westbrook, who flashed his renowned athleticism in a few instances but never hurt the Sixers for a sustained period.
As far as defensive highlights, Thybulle was back in business Thursday. In the third quarter, he turned a steal into an easy fast-break dunk. He later leapt high to snag an open-floor Westbrook pass before dishing the ball to Maxey for a layup and blocked a Malik Monk three-point try in the fourth.
Thybulle and Green played the final two minutes and 44 seconds of the first half together. That stretch didn’t swing the game one way or the other, but it’s always intriguing when Rivers pairs his two top wings. It’s worth keeping tabs on whether he’s still open to that duo once Curry returns.
Harris still playing well, trusting himself
Harris hit 4 of his first 5 field goals and did so with impressive variety.
He drained a catch-and-shoot three on the weak side of the Sixers’ “Loop 2” action, made a mid-range jumper and scored inside after a pretty spin move. Early in his second stint, Harris capitalized on a cross-match in transition to get a basket in the paint against Lakers rookie Austin Reaves.
A simple thought on Harris: He’s appeared to trust his game lately, and that’s coincided with the quick decisions Rivers constantly stresses. Shoot when open, move the ball when nothing’s there, attack when you’ve got a mismatch. Reasonable principles for most players, and especially important ones for Harris.
The Sixers were not hesitant as a team to take threes, going 13 for 35 for the game. They scored 21 more long-distance points than the Lakers, who went just 6 of 29.