In a battle between two of the NBA’s premier young teams, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball made the biggest play of the night.
Tied with seconds remaining, Ball drove to the rim and drew the entire defense toward him before kicking out to Ingram, who splashed a last-second 3-pointer for a 107-104 win over Philadelphia.
“Those are probably our two best decision-makers and we let them ride it out,” head coach Luke Walton said. “They both made unselfish plays. Good recognition of Zo.
“… He had an open 3 in the corner that he re-penetrated. I thought that was great recognition for him. Then Brandon showed a lot of guts to be able to knock down that 3 at the end.”
It was a wild finish for the Lakers (9-15), who led by 15 early in the fourth quarter.
But the 76ers (13-11) fought back behind the all-world talents of Joel Embiid, who posted 33 points, seven rebounds, six assists and five blocks.
As Embiid scored 16 points in the fourth quarter alone and Ben Simmons (12 points, 13 rebounds, 15 assists) notched his triple-double, Philadelphia managed to cut its deficit down to one with only four minutes left.
The sold-out Philly crowd went bonkers, and Walton noted that it “felt like a playoff game” between two teams with four top-two picks: Ingram and Ball vs. Embiid and Simmons.
But it was at that moment that an older lottery pick took over, as the Lakers went to Julius Randle on four straight possessions.
The 23-year-old scored on each trip — including three out of pick-and-rolls — providing 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter.
“Embiid had five fouls, so we were going to go with Ju and live and die with him going to the basket strong,” Ball said.
While a foul-plagued Embiid couldn’t stop Randle at the rim, he was able to get his own offense on the other end of the floor. He tied the game at the foul line with 40 seconds left, and was given the ball again with the chance to take the lead.
The best post-up player in the NBA, Embiid went to work backing down Randle, who held his own on the game’s biggest defensive possession. Three weeks removed from watching Embiid score 46 points mainly against him, Randle came up with the clutch stop.
“I wasn’t gonna let him get me the same way,” Randle said. “He’s probably, from a center position, the toughest (to) guard in the league.
“Last time, I was mad at myself for putting him on the line. His catches (in the post) were too easy. He was getting in the paint. This time I was just trying to make it a lot tougher and not get beat the same way twice.”
From there Ball pushed the fast-break, causing confusion among the defense. He gave the ball to Ingram, who returned it to Ball since there was no defender on him.
Rather than settle for the 3-point opportunity, Lonzo drove into the paint, attracting all five defenders toward him. At the last second he kicked out to a wide-open Ingram, who calmly sunk the biggest shot of his young career.
“That’s kind of what we’re grooming Brandon to do,” Larry Nance Jr. said. “He’s going to be our closer eventually, and that was a great step tonight.”
Philadelphia’s Richaun Holmes was way off on his desperation rebuttal, and the Lakers began their nine-day road trip by halting their five-game losing streak and avenging their earlier loss to the Sixers.
It all started with Ingram, who started strong with 10 points in the first quarter. He then went cold through much of the game, shooting just 7-of-21, but made the biggest play of the night and finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
“He’s really taken some nice steps forward the last week or two as far as just his overall presence and his overall leadership on the practice court, the game court,” Walton said.
Ingram certainly had plenty of help, and Ball was there to provide some of everything. B.I.’s fellow second-overall pick piled up 10 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, four blocks and three steals while committing zero turnovers.
Speaking of giveaways, the Lakers — who entered the game averaging the most in the league — decisively won the possession battle.
They had only 11 turnovers to Philadelphia’s 18, and enjoyed a 15-7 advantage in offensive rebounds.
The Lakers were also effective from distance, hitting 11 3-pointers, including four from Jordan Clarkson. The second-unit point guard was key, scoring 16 points and hitting a variety of triples, including off the dribble and on an elevator-doors play.
Seven Lakers scored in double figures, including Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (13 points), Larry Nance Jr. (11) and Brook Lopez (11). … Robert Covington had 19 points and four blocks for Philadelphia. … The Lakers shot just 12-of-24 on free throws.