All it took was the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference and a dramatic finish to finally slow down the Los Angeles Lakers on the road.
The Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Lakers 107-106 in Wednesday's potential NBA Finals preview at Wells Fargo Center thanks to a game-winning jumper from Tobias Harris with three seconds remaining. Harris, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons led the way for the victors, who improved to 13-6 on the season and 4-1 in their last five games.
An impressive showing from LeBron James was not enough to prevent the 14-5 Lakers' first loss in 11 tries away from home.
L.A. came roaring back to take the lead in the final seconds despite facing a 12-point deficit with 3:07 remaining, but Anthony Davis' heave at the buzzer fell well short after Harris' winner.
Notable Player Stats
- Joel Embiid, C, PHI: 28 PTS, 6 REB, 4 AST, 2 BLK
- Ben Simmons, PG, PHI: 17 PTS, 11 REB, 10 AST
- Tobias Harris, F, PHI: 24 PTS, 7 REB, 3 AST
- LeBron James, F, LAL: 34 PTS, 6 REB, 6 AST
- Anthony Davis, F, LAL: 23 PTS, 8 REB, 2 BLK
76ers Survive Late Charge for Statement Win
It's fair for fans to still harbor some doubts about the 76ers.
After all, they have yet to make it out of the second round of the playoffs with their current core and were swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round of last year's postseason. Blowing a commanding lead in the final minutes during Wednesday's game against the defending champions would have done nothing to dispel the idea that this hot start is a mirage.
And then Harris came to the rescue.
Before that, Embiid set the tone with 13 points in the opening quarter as he overwhelmed the Lakers' frontcourt and even blocked James in a head-turning play. He also remained in the game down the stretch following a scary foul on a flagrant foul from LeBron, causing 76ers fans to breathe a sigh of relief.
Embiid's start forced the Lakers to send additional help his way, and Simmons took advantage of the resultant driving lanes. He consistently finished at the rim or set up others on his way to a triple-double.
Harris also found his touch and answered multiple runs from the visitors with well-timed baskets.
It was only fitting, then, that Harris hit the biggest shot of the game after Philadelphia nearly blew one of its best collective efforts of the season with a lackadaisical finish. Instead of a loss that would have caused doubt, the 76ers have one of the more impressive wins of the season and will look to keep building momentum before the playoffs.
LeBron's Help Arrives Too Late
It must be nice having two of perhaps the best five players in the league.
James and Davis traded off dominance through the first three stops of a seven-game road trip. The former dropped 34 points in an MVP showdown with Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee and 46 points against his former team in Cleveland, while the latter poured in 37 points in his hometown of Chicago.
That seemed to set the stage for AD's turn, but LeBron clearly had other ideas.
The King kept the Lakers within striking distance despite a red-hot start for Embiid and was nearly unstoppable while barreling through the lane and finishing at the rim. He put up 22 points in the first half alone, and Philadelphia had no counter for his athleticism and size while attacking.
Still, Davis was the only other Laker in double figures heading into the fourth quarter, and he struggled down the stretch with four points in that final period. He also failed to stop Embiid on a key defensive possession, although Dennis Schroder and Alex Caruso nearly made up for it with a torrid stretch at the end.
The pair combined for an 8-0 run in the closing stretch before a three from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and a Davis basket off a beautiful assist from James gave the Lakers the lead with 11 seconds remaining.
Harris' shot wiped away the comeback, and James was likely left thinking where that help from his teammates was in the first 45 minutes.
The Lakers are at the Detroit Pistons on Thursday, while the 76ers are at the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday.