The Los Angeles Lakers entered Friday night in the midst of a season-worst eight-game losing streak. While dealing with injuries and a shuffling rotation, head coach Luke Walton has barely stayed afloat during this seven-game road trip.
Friday’s action at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia against the 76ers saw the Lakers wearing their ‘Hollywood Night’ uniforms. The Lakers began the game with their usual starting five of D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young, Luol Deng, Julius Randle, and Timofey Mozgov.
The Lakers opened the game on a 13-0 run, thanks to proper ball movement and seven quick points from D’Angelo Russell. The second-year point guard, who changes his accessories during the game quite often, decided to bring back his headband.
Walton’s group came out with a keen attention to defense, not allowing the 76ers to score until three minutes into the game. The 76ers elected to start both Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embed, which set up a rather slow frontcourt.
Julius Randle capitalized on the opportunity with continual drives to the basket using his athleticism. Upon scoring four quick points, Randle also had a slashing dunk to the basket, which was called off thanks to a questionable Timofey Mozgov offensive foul.
As the first quarter progressed, it seemed as though Mozgov was bothered by Embid, who promptly scored eight points before receiving his usual rest.
During the next sequence, guard Nick Young received a quick pass into the corner for an open three. The shot was blocked, but Randle hustled to steal away the loose ball. Randle then threw a bullet back to Young, who hit a 20-foot jump shot to give the Lakers a 19-10 lead.
The Lakers came out with a pesky attitude on defense, while being the beneficiary of the referees holding their whistle. Walton’s unit was winning the 50/50 balls in the first quarter, which led to many easy opportunities.
Halfway through the first, the bench unit entered the game and came prepared with their usual energy. Lou Williams, who led the 76ers in scoring off the bench during the 2011-12 season, returned to his old stomping grounds. On his first play in the game, the Lakers found him open in the corner for a three-pointer, giving them a 24-14 lead.
Larry Nance Jr. continued using his athleticism to set up scoring opportunities, collecting offensive rebounds on back-to-back possessions. On another 50/50 ball, Nance Jr. tipped out the rebound to an open Jordan Clarkson, who buried the three-pointer.
Williams hit a driving lay up the following the possession, giving the Lakers an 11-4 run to end the first 12 minutes. After one quarter, the Lakers held a 30-18 lead.
The start of the second quarter saw the return of Tarik Black, the energetic back up center that provides consistent rebounding. While being tasked with Embid, Black used his strength but picked up a questionable foul call.
Williams continued his scoring role with the second unit, scoring four quick points to begin the period. After a beautifully set pick, Williams rolled hard to the basket and used his body to create separation off of Embid for the easy lay up.
The Lakers guards were executing the pick and roll to perfection, using the slow interior of the 76ers to create opportunities. On a fast break, Williams cut back off a back and hit a slipping Mozgov who threw down a vicious one-handed dunk.
However, the Lakers’ big men were getting into early foul trouble. With over seven minutes remaining in the second quarter, both Mozgov and Black had three personal fouls.
With both big men battling with foul trouble, the team made necessary adjustments on the interior. Mozgov began contesting with his hands vertically, while the guards were dropping down into the key for strips and help side defense.
As the big men began sagging off the 76ers, Okafor and Embid began pulling the mid range jump shots. Upon an Okafor mid-range shot, Walton called his first timeout off the quarter, with the Lakers leading by a score of 41-31.
The unselfish play of the Lakers was truly on display, as the team was creating for one another. Even when plays would breakdown, they would keep their cool and find a well-executed shot.
After losing eight straight games, it seems the Lakers had a wake up call defensively on Friday night. Upon recording his third steal of the game, Randle took an open fast break for a reverse two-handed jam.
The Lakers had a sloppy end to the first half, committing turnovers on back-to-back possessions. Randle, who had three turnovers along with his three steals, allowed an easy strip by a guard for an easy layup.
Russell and Ersan Ilyasova each traded threes to end the half, giving the Lakers a 53-40 lead at halftime. Randle’s 13 points led the Lakers at the half, while he also collected six rebounds, two assists and three steals.
Williams’ 12 points led the bench mob, while Russell had 10 points, five rebounds and two assists. The Lakers had 11 assists at halftime, which was as much as they had during their entire previous game against the Brooklyn Nets.
During the halftime ceremony, 76ers’ legend Allen Iverson was honored by the organization including Julius Erving. He was presented his NBA Hall-Of-Fame jacket and received a standing ovation from the faithful fans in attendance.
Both teams failed to score on open opportunities the first two minutes of the third quarter, until Young buried a three off a strong screen by Randle. The next possession down, Randle used his ball handling abilities to get past the defense and finish a layup. The 76ers quickly called timeout, as the Lakers opened up their biggest lead of the game (58-40).
With a comfortable 20-point lead, both teams starting playing sloppy on the offensive end. Both teams would hit a dry spell, not scoring for roughly two minutes. Randle, who has four fouls and five turnovers, had some loose dribbles in traffic.
However, Walton would call a timeout to regather his players. The offensive execution, which gave them the 20-point lead, seemed to be slipping, although the 76ers couldn’t convert on opportunities. During the next possession, Young received a post up opportunity and promptly got a three-point play off a fade away jumper.
Although he would miss the free throw, it ended the scoring drought for the Lakers. The 76ers would have cut the lead slowly, as it shrunk to 17 points.
Walton was frustrated with the lack of effort, as it seemed the team got complacent. The Lakers started settling for too many three-point shots, missing plenty of attempts that could have resulted in an easier basket.
Towards the end of the quarter, the team had a mental breakdown. Clarkson lazily let the inbounds pass be stolen, followed by turning it over the next possession in a forced 1-on-3 drive to the paint. The next play down, Clarkson once again drove it in, only for him to turn it over once again.
At the end of the third quarter, the Lakers lead shrunk to just 10 points, as they led 74-64.
With just a 10-point lead starting the fourth quarter, the crowd started to get back into the game. The 76ers turned into the attentive defensive team, while the Lakers’ effort on defense was fading away.
The 76ers cut the lead to seven points, as Dario Saric nailed a trailing three-pointer. However, the Lakers would respond with a great offensive set, rotating the ball quickly. Upon all five players touching the ball, Clarkson was left open for a three and nailed it to extend the lead back to double digits.
Attempting to get back into the game, the 76ers began picking up their pace on the offensive end. Nik Stauskas drove hard and flicked in a floater, but Nance Jr. blocked the ball and watched it deflect off Stauskas before it went out of bounds.
The Lakers went back to their pick and roll offense, spacing the floor with three shooters. Clarkson used a Nance Jr. screen to take Stauskas to the basket, finishing around Okafor and hitting double digits in points.
During the next possession for the Lakers, Williams resorted to his trademark foul-drawing ability and knocked down two free throws to extend the lead to 12. Walton’s unit was able to then extend the lead back to 14 points, as Williams hit Nance Jr. on a roll to score an easy bucket.
With the 76ers failing to score on three straight possessions, the Lakers were able to capitalize and give them some breathing room. However, the 76ers came battling back and got five points to cut the lead to nine.
After a Deng open three brought it back to 12 points, the Lakers were able to get it together defensively, getting two straight defensive stops. The next play down, the 76ers broke down on defense, which led to an open Mozgov slam.
The 76ers then opened up a 7-0 run, with less than two minutes remaining. Randle then turned the ball over, his fifth of the game. After the 76ers turned it over out of bounds, Russell would turn it over after being stripped driving to the basket.
The sloppy end to the contest would continue until the Lakers were able to score a dagger basket. After running the clock under a minute, Williams found Randle for a mid-range jump shot.
The Lakers were then able to run the clock out on multiple possessions, giving them a 100-89 victory.
Upon sinking some free throws after being fouled late, Randle was able to secure a season-high 25 points, along with nine rebounds, four assists, three steals and five turnovers. Williams chipped in 18 points, three steals, and four assists, while Russell totaled 15 points, seven rebounds and two assists.
Although the Lakers had a horrible effort during the fourth quarter (12 turnovers in the second half), they were able to stay afloat and ride the wave towards their 11th victory of the season. The Lakers snapped their eight-game losing streak and got their first win on the road trip.