Game Recap: 76ers 103, Lakers 91
After seeing fourth-quarter leads disappear in five straight games, the 76ers (1-18) got the job done on Tuesday. Behind a dominant second half, the Sixers earned their first victory of the season, downing the Los Angeles Lakers (2-15), 103-91, at The Center. The Sixers limited the Lakers to 33 points following intermission, outscoring them by 20 points between the third and fourth periods.
In his final playing appearance in Philadelphia, Kobe Bryant showed early flashes of his vintage form, pumping out nine points in the opening 76 seconds of the contest. From there, the 37-year old cooled considerably, converting only two of his final 16 shots the rest of the way. He finished with 20 points, a team-high for Los Angeles.
The Sixers, meanwhile, scrapped and hustled all the way back from a 14-point deficit late in the second quarter. Nerlens Noel, returning from a two-game absence, helped lead a balanced attack, and competed with an energy that seemed to trickle down to the rest of the roster. He notched 14 points (5-7 fg) and nine rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench. Robert Covington delivered a game-best 23 points, nailing five of 11 three-point attempts. Jerami Grant produced an impactful two-way performance, with 14 points (6-7 fg), seven rebounds, four assists, and four blocked shots.
The win was the Sixers’ first at The Center since they beat the New York Knicks, 97-81, this past spring, on March 20th.
We’re taking the easy way out on this pick, and not making things too complicated. With the Sixers closing in on their first win in 19 games, Jerami Grant, who made his presence felt in a variety of ways, threw down the final bucket of the night to seal his club’s 12-point triumph over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Brett Brown Said - On the Sixers’ first win of the season:
“I think the team is a team. I think we haven’t blinked and reacted to the obvious place that we’re in. I’m pleased for the city. We don’t want this streak continuing. We were pleased to come in here and get a win for our fans. They deserve it. We’re going to get greedy. We want a little bit more.“
In addition to Tuesday marking the last game Kobe Bryant was scheduled to play in Philadelphia, the evening also served as a celebration of the late Moses Malone. The NBA’s fifth all-time leading rebounder and eighth all-time leading scorer passed away at the age of 60 on September 13th.
Los Angeles head coach Byron Scott broke into the NBA the season after the Sixers defeated the Lakers in the 1983 NBA Finals. He crossed paths with Malone over the course of his career.
“Moses,” said Scott with a pause and smile, “Was just a fierce competitor. One of the best rebounders I’ve ever seen. Just played extremely hard.”
At Los Angeles’ shoot-around at Temple University Tuesday morning, Scott called the death of Malone “shocking.”
“Celebrating his life in the way that he played the game is something that Philly should do, and definitely something that he deserves,” Scott added. “He helped bring the championship here, and he was one of the best centers to ever play the game.
During a halftime ceremony held in Malone’s honor, former teammates Julius Erving and Clint Richardson shared stories about the Chairman of the Boards. Towards the end of the tribute, Moses Malone Jr. addressed the crowd, and revealed that next season, the Sixers wile retire Malone’s number “2” jersey.
Entering Tuesday’s game, Kobe Bryant had faced the Sixers 31 previous times during the regular season, averaging 23.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.5 assists against his birth city’s NBA franchise. He posted 24.6 points per game versus the Sixers in the 2001 NBA Finals, and also had a 48-point performance against them in a January 6th, 2006 game at Staples Center.
Two hours before tip-off, Bryant met with reporters for 15 minutes, discussing the significance of his final appearance in Philadelphia, which came 48 hours after his retirement announcement.
“Thank you, for everything,” Bryant replied when asked about the message he had for his hometown. “It’s such a beautiful thing. I was driving around last night, going to all the parks I used to play in, and seeing some familiar faces. It got me thinking how fast it all went. I’m just very appreciative, very thankful.”
Bryant, of course, is the son of former Sixer Joe Bryant. He racked up 2,883 points during a four-year career at Lower Merion High School. His senior year, in 1996, the Aces won the PIAA state championship, and Bryant was tabbed the Gatorade and Naismith National High School Player of the Year.
Bryant credited his Lower Merion head coach, Greg Downer, for helping develop his mid-range game, and for stressing the importance of adopting a “steak and potatoes,” East Coast approach to basketball. Bryant also spoke about the significance of his experience in the Sonny Hill Community Involvement League.
“That was a turning point,” Bryant said of his participation in the renowned Philadelphia-based summer league, which has been in operation for nearly 50 years. “That was a big motivating thing for me. That’s how I measured myself. That was the ultimate competition.”
Hill, as he frequently does, attended Tuesday’s contest.
Bryant was given a strong, roaring ovation during pre-game introductions. When it was his turn to take the court, the house lights dimmed as Sixers’ public address announcer Matt Cord read down the list of Bryant’s many accomplishments, citing, among other achievements, his 2008 MVP Award, and his top-three ranking on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
What was the biggest lesson Bryant learned from his time in the Delaware Valley?
“How to be tough. How to have thick skin,” the 37-year old said. “There’s not one playground or place where people play basketball where they don’t talk trash. My family was a bunch of trash talkers. Every park I went to was a bunch of trash talkers. You got to have thick skin.”
On behalf of the Sixers, Julius Erving and Downer presented Bryant with a framed number “24” Lower Merion jersey prior to the game.
Brett Brown’s 12-year run as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs coincided with portions of the two dominant title runs that Kobe Bryant helped the Los Angeles Lakers string together. When Brown re-joined Gregg Popovich’s bench for the 2002-2003 season, the Lakers finished the campaign by clinching their third consecutive championship. In 2008, Bryant led Los Angeles to a victory over San Antonio in the Western Conference Finals. Then in 2009 and 2010, Bryant won his fourth and fifth titles with the Lakers.
“I had the privilege of coaching [Bryant] with ‘Pop’ in two All-Star Games,” said Brown. “I had the responsibility to help prepare the Spurs to try to beat the Lakers and get through a Western Conference championship. They were my team that I was responsible for. The thing that stands out to me, when you go into that environment, say in an All-Star Game, and you’re looking at 24 of the best players in the world, and even in that environment, he is the alpha dog. He acts like it, he carries himself like it. He wants the ball, and he wants to win.”
Brown continued, “You just always see Kobe impose himself on the game, more than anything, no matter who he was with. There was, and I say this respectfully, an arrogant side of him that he felt entitled to go win a game, to take a game. You just saw that disposition and back-up ability, year-to-year ability, to break your back. He was a wrecking ball on many levels.”
Another member of the Sixers’ family shared his thoughts on Bryant’s 20-year run Tuesday night.
“To the Mamba,” Allen Iverson said in a statement distributed through ESPN. “You brought so much out of me like no other player ever has. There will never, ever be another player like Kobe Bryant. I love you bro and good luck to you.”
One day after making their first home appearance in nearly two weeks, the Sixers head back on the road Wednesday for a 7:30 PM EST stop at Madison Square Garden. Eighteen games into their second campaign under head coach Derek Fisher, the New York Knicks (8-10) are just one victory away of exceeding half their win total from all of last year, when they went a franchise and Eastern Conference worst 17-65. It took them until their 44th game last season to reach eight wins. With Carmelo Anthony healthy (he did miss Monday’s game against Houston because he was ill), and rookie Kristaps Porzingis holding his own, New York seems to be relatively re-energized, despite dropping four games in a row. Anthony is averaging 22.1 points per game, and has converted a team-high 28 three-pointers. Porzingis, the Latvian who was taken fourth overall in the 2015 NBA Draft, has posted 13.4 points per game. He also ranks seventh in the league with 34 blocked shots, and ninth overall in total rebounds. The Knicks added veterans Aaron Afflalo, Robin Lopez, and Kevin Seraphin in the off-season, and acquired Jerian Grant, the brother of Sixers forward Jerami Grant, in the first round of the draft.