The last game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Philadelphia 76ers was a brilliant, fun showcase of the NBA’s future featuring a head-to-head match-up between some of its brightest young stars in Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma.
For his part, Kuzma has been impressed with what he’s seen from Simmons in particular. “He’s a good player, pretty good rookie,” Kuzma said. “He’s having a good year. Doing a good job of facilitating, scores it, rebounds, he’s having a pretty solid rookie year.”
Simmons is certainly having himself quite the season. He’s the odds-on favorite for the Rookie of the Year Award. The 76ers’ standout currently leads all rookies in scoring (18 points per game), rebounds (9.3) and assists (7.1).
Simmons’ teammate, second-year center Embiid, has also been incredible so far this season, averaging 23 points per game to go with 11.3 rebounds. Averages that look meager compared to the 46 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists he dropped on the Lakers the last time they played.
“I haven’t really watched them too much since (their last meeting),” Kuzma said of the 76ers as a whole. Y”ou’ve got to be ready for them. Embiid gave us 40, I bet he’s ready to play us again.”
Ball knows that if the Lakers want to snap their five-game losing streak they’ll have to do a better job containing Embiid and closing the openings that his individual dominance creates, and he said that doing so is the game plan.
“Just go in and play defense first, and let things go from there,” Ball said. “All the games that we win, we play good defense.”
The Lakers have played some of the best defense in the league to start the season, holding opponents to 102.9 points per 100 possessions, the eighth-best defensive efficiency in the NBA.
That efficiency has dropped slightly on the road, however, where the Lakers have allowed 104.6 points per 100 possessions, which ranks 10th in the NBA.
A little less than a two-point difference in efficiency might not seem like a lot, but the young Lakers’ margin for error away from home is so infinitesimal that it’s been enough of a drop to leave them 2-8 away from home, a far worse winning percentage than their 6-7 home record.
The Lakers’ game against the Sixers is the start of a four-game trip, and Kuzma knows they have to clean a few things up if they want to improve their fortunes in opposing arenas and end their losing skid.
“We turn the ball over too much, we’re missing free throws, and we’ve got to get back to our defensive identity,” Kuzma said. “At the end of the day, it’s tough to win on the road. We’ve got to come out and be ready, just locked in from the jump.”
Doing all of those things would be nice, but Kuzma also knows there is literally only one way to snap a losing streak.
“A win. We come in and work every day, but the best way to end a losing streak is to win,” he said.