Joel Embiid, 76ers Blow Out LeBron James, Lakers Despite Kyle Kuzma's 39 Points

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 10, 2019

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 10: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers celebrates with Jimmy Butler #23 and Tobias Harris #33 against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first quarter at the Wells Fargo Center on February 10, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers slipped back to .500 following a 143-120 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

Playing in his second game with the Sixers following his trade from the Los Angeles Clippers, Tobias Harris scored 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting, including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. Joel Embiid had a big game (37 points, 14 rebounds) in the win.

LeBron James finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in his fourth game back since recovering from a groin strain. Kyle Kuzma had a game-high 39 points.

      

Loss to 76ers a Cold Reality Check for Lakers After Emotional Win

In their first game after failing to land Anthony Davis by the trade deadline, the Lakers overcame an 18-point deficit to beat the Boston Celtics on a buzzer-beater by Rajon Rondo.

The result looked like it could be a turning point for Los Angeles, with the young players, in particular, playing with a chip on their shoulders after the Los Angeles Times' Broderick Turner reported the team was willing to trade anything under the sun for Davis.

However, this is the same Lakers squad that struggled mightily in James' absence and has clear issues when he is on the court.

In particular, Los Angeles is a mess when Luke Walton has to turn to his reserves. Tyson Chandler and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope both finished with a minus-23 net rating, while Lance Stephenson was minus-24.

A better head coach might have found a way to mask the Lakers' lack of depth somewhat, beyond playing their starters more. Walton, on the other hand, appears to have a blind spot when it comes to his optimal rotations.

When it became clear the New Orleans Pelicans weren't going to trade Davis to the Lakers, Los Angeles' front office was smart not to panic and do something foolish just to give the impression of being active at the deadline.

The prudent approach isn't without consequences, though. The Lakers effectively remain in a holding pattern until the offseason, when they can either make another run at Davis or shift their focus toward free agents.

Before then, fans will have to expect more of the same from a team that will have a hard time pushing for a top-four seed in the Western Conference.

      

Sixers' New Additions Fitting Seamlessly into Team

Two games isn't a huge sample from which to draw any definitive conclusions about the Sixers' moves ahead of the trade deadline.

When Philadelphia acquired Harris, the team had on paper one of the strongest starting fives in the NBA outside of the Bay Area. That doesn't guarantee head coach Brett Brown can make all of the pieces fit together, though.

Harris' solid performance didn't come at the cost of Philadelphia's other stars. Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler attempted 16, 13 and 10 shots, respectively. That's a healthy balance for four players who will want the ball in their hands.

As a team, the Sixers shot 57.7 percent from the field and 50.0 from three-point range. They also had 33 assists with only seven turnovers.

Mike Scott and Boban Marjanovic even got in on the fun. Scott had seven points, two rebounds, one assist and two steals in 21 minutes on the floor, and Marjanovic scored 10 points in 13 minutes.

In general, the bench was excellent, with Scott, Marjanovic, T.J. McConnell and Furkan Korkmaz combining to shoot 17-of-25 and score 37 points. James Ennis III was 0-of-5, while Jonathon Simmons only saw three minutes of action.

Sixers general manager Elton Brand swung big when he gave up Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala and Landry Shamet, as well as a pair of first-round picks, in order to get Harris from the Clippers. The win-now gambit may ultimately pay off this summer.

     

Kyle Kuzma Has Become Lakers' Most Reliable Scorer Outside of LeBron

When the Lakers signed James, many expected Brandon Ingram to benefit the most and take his game to another level. Instead, Kuzma has emerged as the clear No. 2 option on offense behind LeBron.

And unlike some of his teammates, the AD saga may have awakened something in Kuzma to provide a source of motivation.

Kuzma's overall point total is somewhat deceiving since he had 23 points in the first quarter alone.

As the game slowly started getting away from the Lakers, Kuzma couldn't replicate his red-hot opening frame. That wasn't entirely his fault, though, with Walton leaving him on the bench during pivotal junctures.

On one hand, it's good to see the 23-year-old taking on a larger role for the Lakers. On the other, a team with Kuzma as its second-best scorer can't expect to go far in the postseason.

      

What's Next?

The Sixers welcome the Boston Celtics on Tuesday. The Celtics most recently threw away a 28-point lead in a 123-112 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday. The Lakers hit the road Tuesday to play the Atlanta Hawks, which is their final game before the NBA All-Star break.

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