Team Sends Lakers Packing
Pack up the Purple and Gold paraphernalia.
Bye bye, bandwagoners.
For all but a few of the 21,109 gathered at The Center, this game wasn't about an opposing player passing a milestone, regardless of how impressive a feat it was.
No, the 76ers' (30-17) performance on Saturday was about a shorthanded club storming out of the gates with no fear, continuing to play elite defense, and getting pivotal contributions from the key stars it did have en route to knocking off another top-tier team.
The Sixers might not have had Joel Embiid (left hand) or Josh Richardson (left hamstring). Nevertheless, they still delivered a convincing 108-91 victory over the Western-Conference leading Los Angeles Lakers (36-10).
On a night that LeBron James was rightfully celebrated for passing Kobe Bryant for third-place on the NBA's all-time scoring list, the Kid stole the show from the King.
From the outset, Ben Simmons was locked in, driving to the basket at will offensively, and spearheading the Sixers' stout defense.
Matched up with his mentor for most of the evening, Simmons finished with 28 points (12-15 fg, 4-6 ft), 10 rebounds, eight assists, five steals, and a game-best plus-15 in 41 minutes. James, by comparison, was minus-22 in 35 minutes, going for 29 points (9-18 fg, 1-6 3fg, 10-13 ft), seven boards, and eight assists.
With Saturday's game on the line, it was Simmons' probes into the paint that set up two of the contest's most crucial baskets - an elbow jumper and straightaway 3-pointer, both from Al Horford, to stretch the Sixers' lead from five to 10 with 3:46 to go.
Oh. And Simmons lost a tooth during the first half, too.
A timeout by the Lakers did nothing to cool down the steady, clutch Horford. He came back out and buried a tough fadeaway 14-footer from the baseline to widen the gap to 100-88, and effectively put the game out of reach.
In less than 90 seconds, Horford had rattled off seven points in a row. He tallied nine of his 16 points in Saturday's final frame, while adding six rebounds overall.
When the Sixers needed him most, the veteran was there.
It's probably unfair that we've now written 13 graphs and still haven't highlighted Tobias Harris' role in the Sixers' fifth win in six tries. He, like Simmons, was vital to setting an aggressive tone, posting nine points in the first quarter.
Harris' driving slam with 7:35 left in the third period gave the Sixers' their biggest margin of the evening at 22 points, 74-52. The basket capped a 15-2 surge that coincided with the start of the second half.
Against a Los Angeles squad that took the floor Saturday with the fifth-best defense in the league, the Sixers converted 52.6% of their shots. They manufactured a decisive advantage from outside the arc, hitting 13 3-pointers to the Lakers' six.
Click here for a complete box score.
• Matisse Thybulle generated five steals to equal a career-high. Prior to Saturday's action, only eight players in the NBA had more than one five-steal games.
• Logging the first start of his NBA career, Shake Milton registered nine rebounds, good for the second-highest total in Saturday's game.
• Zhaire Smith made his regular season debut, but was forced to leave the game early due to an ankle injury.
Benny rings the bell.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) January 26, 2020
Before setting out on a four-game trip starting later next week, the 76ers will host the Golden State Warriors Wednesday at The Center. As of Saturday, injury-riddled Golden State owned the poorest record in the NBA, at 10-37.