With the Los Angeles Lakers already down double digits late within the first quarter on Wednesday, LeBron James put his head down and drove to the cup, trying to salvage a smidgen of momentum heading into the quarter break.
Awaiting him on the rim was the Philadelphia 76ers‘ hulking Joel Embiid, who swatted away what appeared to be a straightforward 2 for James, sparking a transition alternative that former Lakers guard Danny Green accomplished with a 3 from the highest of the important thing to place Philly up by 16.
It was the sort of sequence that might make these watching discuss themselves into believing the Sixers are legit contenders this season.
There was the 7-foot, 280-pound MVP candidate in Embiid anchoring Philadelphia’s top-five protection and stuffing one of the best finishers within the historical past of the sport in James — placing up an MVP marketing campaign of his personal — resulting in a fast-break 3 from a three-time champion. All because the 76ers’ new coach with championship credentials of his personal, Doc Rivers, oversaw the motion from the sidelines.
That is to not say the remainder of the evening was as dominant for the Sixers, of course. L.A. used a 13-0 run late within the fourth quarter to take the lead with 11.2 seconds left off a reasonably dish from James to a chopping Anthony Davis, and it regarded like the Lakers may hold their good 10-0 highway begin to the season going. Philly answered, nevertheless, with Tobias Harris connecting on a pull-up bounce shot over Alex Caruso with three seconds left to win it, 107-106.
“They know what they are looking for,” Lakers huge man Marc Gasol informed reporters on a videoconference after the sport, complimenting the Sixers’ path. “I think all the players accepted their roles and want to excel in them. They know what they want to live by offensively and what they want to live by defensively.”
Gasol, who got here into the competition with a bit of a popularity as an Embiid stopper — the Sixers’ huge man was simply 3-5 in his profession towards Gasol earlier than Wednesday, averaging 10.6 factors on 30% taking pictures in these video games — could not disrupt “The Process” this time.
Embiid completed with 28 factors, six rebounds, 4 assists and two blocks. Meanwhile, Gasol was rendered ineffective, giving up 15 of these factors whereas guarding Embiid as he went 5-for-9 from the sphere and 4-for-5 from the foul line in possessions the place the Lakers’ newly acquired beginning heart was tasked with defending him.
“They played through him, and they played through him a lot, and they are going to keep feeding him,” Gasol mentioned. “It’s not like they are going to go away and feed somebody else. They know who they are going to play through and how they are going to play, and they are comfortable with that.
“So, we’ll look at it, and we’ll get higher.”
One win in January doesn’t shift the balance of power for the entire league. The Sixers will still have to prove themselves to be better than the Brooklyn Nets’ new big three, the Boston Celtics‘ cohesive core and the Milwaukee Bucks with two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo — simply to get out of the Eastern Conference.
But a rematch of the 2001 NBA Finals between L.A. and Philadelphia is actually a risk 20 years later.
Wednesday’s win gave the Sixers a 10-1 mark at dwelling this season — they’re now 41-5 on the Wells Fargo Center because the begin of final season — and improved their total report to 13-6, the perfect within the East. They have Embiid enjoying the perfect basketball of his profession. They have Ben Simmons, a rugged defender with the dimensions to harass James. Green and Harris and Seth Curry — who did not even play on Wednesday — are constantly hitting from the skin.
Lots would nonetheless must occur between every now and then, however it’s not far-fetched.
“I think it’s a really good team that they’ve put together,” James mentioned of the 76ers. “Give a lot of credit to [general manager] Elton Brand and the things that they’re doing here. Obviously, Doc has always won pretty much wherever he’s been. We’ll see as the season goes on; there’s going to be a lot of teams in the Eastern Conference playing championship basketball down the stretch. I know they believe that they’re one of those teams.”
The Lakers, by advantage of being the defending champs, are already a confirmed contender. However, final 12 months’s workforce that proved it might deal with Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic and Bam Adebayo en path to the title was one of the largest groups within the league.
“We’re different,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel mentioned of the shift at heart. “And different doesn’t have to mean better or worse. I would like to think that we’re trying to be a better basketball team this year than even we were last year when we won the championship.”
Whether these Lakers are higher than the 2019-20 Lakers stays to be seen. Despite Wednesday’s end result, they already consider they’re higher than the 2020-21 Sixers.
“I think our lineup and our group that we have are very capable of beating this team in a seven-game series,” Davis mentioned.