PHILADELPHIA — All any team ever asks is to fight for 48 minutes. On Friday night, down big, the Lakers never stopped fighting, punching an 18-point deficit all the way down to zero.
It was the five minutes of overtime where all the steam ran out.
The Lakers (10-15) missed nine consecutive shots in extra time and were outscored 13-2, showing the fatigue of their unlikely comeback in an eventual 133-122 defeat to the Philadelphia 76ers. It was their third straight loss, the most competitive of the bunch, but a loss all the same – the Lakers haven’t won a road game in Philly since 2017.
Anthony Davis fueled the comeback with 31 points, 21 during the fourth quarter. He also helped stymie 76ers big man Joel Embiid, who scored 38 points, down the critical stretch.
As inspired as the comeback was, the Lakers had a chance to win in regulation. Down by two, the Lakers called a sideline out-of-bounds play to find Austin Reaves (25 points), who quickly drew a 3-point shooting foul. The 92% free-throw shooter had one roll in, one swish and one clank, but the Sixers turned the ball over as Davis jostled Embiid, and Davis (an 82.3% shooter) made his first free throw, but missed his second, sending the game to overtime. The Lakers made 16 of 20 free throws in the fourth.
LeBron James added 23 points and six assists but looked rusty at points, shooting 9 for 22 and just 4 for 8 from the free-throw line.
Russell Westbrook, the league’s career triple-double king, logged his first of the season, totaling 12 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds. But his hustle was the biggest stamp on the game: Westbrook got three steals and led the Lakers down the floor in the final minutes when they whittled what was an 18-point deficit to two with 11.3 seconds left. They had still trailed by nine with less than 30 seconds left.
The Lakers struggled to find Philadelphia shooters on defense, giving up 18 3-pointers. The biggest beneficiary of these gaps on the perimeter was USC product De’Anthony Melton, who scored a career-high 33 points and was a sizzling 8 for 12 from behind the arc.
What was touted as a matchup of two of the league’s top big men got out to a one-sided start. Davis had hardly even started before the whistles came for him, one while going for a rebound against Embiid, then a second at just the 8:37 mark. Ham kept Davis in the game to counter Embiid, who was already starting to get on a roll, but the risk didn’t pay off when Davis was whistled for a loose ball foul in a scrap with P.J. Tucker.
Without any kind of interior resistance, Embiid slammed into the Lakers like a wrecking ball. He ended the first quarter showcasing his versatility on back-to-back possessions, rocking a dunk past Thomas Bryant, then sinking a 3-pointer while falling out of bounds with a second left.
After one quarter, Embiid had 20 points – as many as the Lakers, who trailed by 11.
But the Lakers tightened their defense in the second quarter, playing a zone scheme – and fueling one of the best shooting runs the franchise has seen in years. Surging into the lead, the Lakers made 13 consecutive field-goal attempts from seven different players. Their 77.8% shooting in the second quarter was their highest in any quarter since March 2018.
More to come on this story.