A complete offensive effort from the Los Angeles Lakers veteran power was almost enough to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night.
The Lakers were without their superstar power in LeBron James, but that didn’t stop them from putting up a fight against the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference in a suspenseful 121-126 loss. Dwight Howard put up a season-high 24 points and eight rebounds.
The Lakers got off to a slow, but steady start. They were unable to make many shots fall, but the young lineup was able to stay on par with Philadelphia. The 76ers weren’t prepared for the Lakers’ defense, however, and they continued to commit simple errors in the first quarter.
Stanley Johnson started up the Lakers crowd with a couple of momentum-swinging 3-pointers. He got the Lakers into the competition early and helped them stay there. Joel Embiid did his best to stifle any Lakers run, as he ended the night with 30 points.
Russell Westbrook began heating up in the second quarter. While his field goal percentage wasn’t impressive, he was making smart plays and assists for his teammates. He displayed a touch of vintage Westbrook in a fastbreak layup during the second quarter. Malik Monk responded to Westbrook’s energy with his own big plays and 3-pointers.
The 76ers caught up with five minutes left in the second. Philadelphia quickly pulled away, led behind Embiid and James Harden, who found himself going to the line as he pleased. Dwight Howard had a crucial bucket to stop the bleeding and a quick layup for some much-needed energy.
The Lakers came out in the third quarter displaying their usual lackluster level of play, which would ultimately be their demise. Embiid began tearing through the paint and taking advantage of the small Lakers lineup without James. Howard did his best to keep the Lakers in the game, as he hit his season-high in the third quarter.
The team fed off Howard’s energy with two minutes left in the third, and finally started sinking 3-pointers to eat away at the lead. A 14-4 run was capped off by a huge dunk from Wenyen Gabriel. Carmelo Anthony, Westbrook and Monk all took advantage of the momentum change to bring the Lakers within four to begin the fourth.
A few miscommunication errors on the defensive end of the floor allowed the 76ers to keep a convincing lead. Westbrook and Anthony did their best to keep the team within shouting distance of a tie, but the 76ers were simply too powerful.
Philadelphia focused its efforts on Howard, or more specifically, on sending him to the line. The fouls stifled the Lakers’ energy and rhythm, and the 76ers were able to extend the lead to nine.
With James and Anthony Davis cheering them on from the sidelines, the Lakers continued to respond to every 3-point play and fast break to keep the game close.
Westbrook, who seems to have found his groove through the past couple of games, refused to give up on plays down the stretch, keeping the Lakers within a couple possessions. He earned a few points off fast breaks and took a charge from Embiid to make the 76ers work for every point.
The Lakers hung tough offensively, but could not get the stops they needed ultimately as they ended the night with yet another loss.
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