The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Philadelphia 76ers, 111-98, in a game that featured two injury-riddled squads trying to piece together their rotations.
The Sixers may have had slightly better luck patching their lineup holes than the Lakers did, as Nick Young outscored Devin Ebanks 30-0 in the "new starter" category. But L.A. got plenty of scoring from hometown kid Kobe Bryant and a balanced bench effort to easily knock off the struggling Sixers.
The Lakers rode hot shooting from three-point land and showed plenty of aggression on defense against a Philly squad that thrust its point guard duties on Evan Turner in place of an injured Jrue Holiday. The Lakers' defensive intensity forced a normally disciplined Sixers team into 17 turnovers.
Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 34 points, while Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes supported Nick Young's team-high 30 with 16 points apiece.
On the night, Philly shot a higher percentage than the Lakers from the field, but their poor ball control, inability to match up on the boards and failure to limit open three-point looks were too much to overcome.
The win makes it two in a row for the Lakers, who move to 11-14 on the season. Philadelphia drops to 12-12 following the defeat.
Are the Lakers starting to right the ship? Are the Sixers going to be able to hang around the .500 mark as the injuries mount? Let's get the analysis and discussion started by checking out Sunday night's game grades.
Chris Duhon, Los Angeles Lakers: B-
Chris Duhon certainly never did anything spectacular, but he gets credit for keeping Turner off the block and knocking down a few threes.
The Lakers point guard scored 14 points on 11 shots, including four made triples. Overall, he was simply "decent," which is actually a huge step up for the veteran.
Congratulations, Chris, you managed to be something other than terrible!
Evan Turner, Philadelphia 76ers: B-
Heading into this season, one of the Sixers' biggest weaknesses was a lack of depth at point guard. With Jrue Holiday sidelined for the second straight game by a strained foot, that vulnerability was on fully display.
Turner didn't get into the post as much as expected against the smaller Duhon, but he did make good use of his size advantage by easily shooting over the Lakers' point guard in the mid-range area.
Turner's not an ideal point guard, but his skill set actually works nicely for the position. He's a careful player who sees the court well, and he's smart enough to pick his spots when he's got an advantage.
Tonight, though, Turner simply didn't do enough to exploit his advantage, finishing with 16 points and six assists on 6-of-16 shooting.
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers: A
Bryant returned to his former hometown with his mind on extending the Lakers' win streak to a modest two games, and for the first time in a while, he got plenty of help from his friends.
The 17th-year veteran who starred at Philadelphia's Lower Merion High continued his staggeringly efficient season by knocking down 12-of-21 shots, rarely forcing tough looks and working himself to the line more than any other Laker.
Kobe got to the middle with particular ease against Jason Richardson, which triggered a number of kick-outs to open perimeter shooters.
Bryant ended his night with 34 points, six assists and four rebounds.
If there's a drawback here, it's that Mike D'Antoni left Kobe out there for over 40 minutes in a game that was all but decided after three quarters. At some point, he's going to need more rest in games like this.
Jason Richardson, Philadelphia 76ers: D+
The bad news: Jason Richardson couldn't score against the Lakers, putting up nine points on eight shots in 28 minutes.
The good news: He couldn't stop Kobe either.
Sorry, maybe I'm not totally clear on how the whole "good news, bad news" thing works. At any rate, there was really nothing good at all about J-Rich's night. He had just one rebound and didn't register an assist.
Metta World Peace, Los Angeles Lakers: A
The artist formerly known as Ron Artest hit a trio of first-quarter threes as Thaddeus Young was a little too eager to help off of his notoriously streaky assignment. That early performance seemed to propel World Peace to one of his better performances this year.
MWP played a remarkably controlled game on the offensive end, limiting his mistakes and shooting within the flow of the offense. He avoided some of the questionable heaves that typically mark his game, and only fired away when guarded if the shot clock was winding down.
In addition to his reserved and effective offensive performance, World Peace was a pest on defense and did a terrific job on the boards. He finished with 19 points, four steals and 16 rebounds (including five on the offensive glass).
Nick Young, Philadelphia 76ers: C
You're not going to believe this, but Nick Young got up a whole bunch of shots in his minutes as the Sixers' starting small forward. It'd be nice to assume he was so aggressive because he had Devin Ebanks on him for long stretches, but that's just how Young plays.
Fortunately for the Sixers, Young actually had it going against the Lakers, hitting 12-of-23 shots for 30 points.
Of course, for every good shot he took with his feet set on the catch, there was an ugly fall-away off the dribble or a hopeless floater in traffic.
With Young, the awful games of bad shot selection and selfish play vastly outnumber the ones in which his shots are (however improbably) falling.
No matter how much he scores, can't do better than a C because he is a completely negative entity on defense and doesn't do anything to help his teammates.
Sorry, Nick, there's more to the game than scoring.
Devin Ebanks, Los Angeles Lakers: F
If there's a way to have less of an effect on a basketball game than Ebanks had against the Sixers, I'd sure like to see it.
The Lakers' latest attempt at a stop-gap power forward to replace the injured Pau Gasol was basically invisible on both ends, scoring no points in nearly 20 minutes while doing nothing of note on defense.
Obviously, Ebanks is really just an end-of-the-bench scrub who Mike D'Antoni figured he'd toss out there instead of the consistently ineffective Antawn Jamison. So there's no real need to continue harping on his no-show in Philly.
Let's all just forget Ebanks even played in this one.
Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia 76ers: B-
You knew Young was feeling frisky when he faced up MWP in the first quarter at the top of the key, crossed him over and swooped to the cup for a smooth lefty finger roll.
Young started at the 4, but had MWP hanging on his jersey as a cross-matching small forward for most of the night. The dogged pursuit of World Peace and the big shot totals from Nick Young and Evan Turner prevented Thad from getting as many looks as he deserved.
On the night, Young was the Sixers' most efficient scorer by a wide margin, making seven of his 10 shots en route to 14 points. With a real point guard in the lineup, it's possible Young would have played a bigger role.
Overall, though, he performed well against a motivated MWP, and that's worth a decent grade.
Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers: C+
So, if you heard that Dwight Howard had his shot blocked twice, failed to score and turned the ball over four times in the first quarter because a former Laker center pretty much embarrassed him, you'd think a healthy Andrew Bynum was in the Sixers' starting lineup.
Close, but no cigar.
Instead of Bynum, Kwame Brown put on a defensive clinic against Howard in the game's first 12 minutes. It didn't stop there; virtually every time Howard attacked Brown throughout the game, he failed. He scored one bucket against Kwame.
On the night, D12 ended up with 17 points and 11 boards, but the lingering image from Howard's performance was his shot flying out of bounds after Brown forcefully batted it away.
You don't earn good grades by taking advantage of Spencer Hawes on the block.
Kwame Brown, Philadelphia 76ers: B+
Say what you will about Kwame Brown, but the guy is an excellent one-on-one post defender. Whenever he was on the floor, Brown denied Howard the ball, forced difficult shots and even sent a few offerings into the stands.
Foul trouble kept Brown off the floor for much of the second half, which clearly had a negative effect on the Sixers' team defense. Other than Dorell Wright, who stuffed the stat sheet off the bench, no Sixer who played significant minutes had a better plus-minus than Brown's minus-two.
Jodie Meeks, Los Angeles Lakers: C+
Meeks did what sixth men are supposed to do in today's NBA: he hopped off the bench and started shooting.
The former Sixer played 36 minutes and pumped in 12 points on 10 attempts. In addition to scoring, Meeks also snatched four steals, which tied him for the team high with World Peace.
His aggression might have been fueled by the fact that he was going up against his old team, but the Lakers will take it. He wasn't particularly efficient, but in his role as a bench scorer, he's got to come out like this more often.
Dorell Wright, Philadelphia 76ers: B
Dorell Wright had one of the game's most notable highlights on a backdoor baseline dunk in the first half. Evan Turner found a cutting Wright, who slipped behind the defense for a strong left-handed flush.
High-flying jams aside, Wright gave coach Doug Collins a surprisingly effective option as a backup point guard behind Turner. The Sixers small forward filled up the box score off the bench, amassing an impressive six points, seven rebounds and nine assists.
Because he so effectively mixed the solid with the spectacular, Wright earns relatively high marks in a losing effort.
Los Angeles Lakers: B
There was a Darius Morris sighting in Philadelphia!
The Lakers' fourth-string point guard (if Nash and Blake were healthy) made the most of his opportunities in this one, bombing away from the perimeter. Morris surpassed his career high of 12 points...in the first half.
He fought through a tweaked ankle to finish with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting, making this easily the best performance of Morris' young career.
Other than that, Antawn Jamison and Robert Sacre went scoreless in 18 combined minutes, so it was a good thing for the Lakers that Morris showed up.
Philadelphia 76ers: C+
You've got to love Spencer Hawes.
The man with the mullet helped his team out with some much-needed scoring from the center position, putting up 16 points on 12 shots.
Unfortunately, Hawes' defensive performance left something to be desired. Maybe it was because Kwame Brown looked so terrific on D, but Hawes couldn't seem to keep Dwight Howard from doing just about whatever he wanted on offense and on the boards.
No other Sixer reserve (Wright excluded) played more than 11 minutes, so the grade here belongs entirely to Hawes' "all offense, no defense" performance.