Without LeBron James, who was ruled out due to sore left knee, the Los Angeles Lakers put up a strong fight against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday at Crypto.com Arena.
LA took an early lead and gained as many as seven points in the second quarter, but in the end, Philly was too talented for the Lakers to match up as they won 126-121.
MVP candidate Joel Embiid had 30 points and 10 rebounds, while youngster Tyrese Maxey had 21 points and seven assists for the visiting Sixers.
Just a week or two ago, the Lakers could have been crushed by a team like Philly without James. Tonight, however, they fought hard against a much more talented team and gave everything they could.
There is no such thing as a moral victory at this level, but Lakers head coach Frank Vogel should be encouraged by the way his team lost tonight.
Stanley Johnson: a
Johnson was red hot offensively, shooting 5-for-7 from the field and hitting all three of his 3-point attempts for 13 points while grabbing five rebounds in 35 minutes. He also gave the Lakers a boost in an unexpected area by dishing out eight assists.
He has simply been a revelation for a team that sorely needed at least one young, defensive-minded backup striker like him.
Wenyen Gabriel: B-
As he did in Cleveland on Monday, Gabriel couldn’t buy a shot from the perimeter and missed all three of his 3-point attempts. But he made four more from the field, and while he shot just 4-for-11 overall, he looked to move off the ball and showed good effort following his shots on the offensive boards.
Gabriel had nine rebounds in 30 minutes, and although defensively he was outplayed at times, he blocked two shots.
If he starts hitting the outside shot consistently, and especially if he improves his individual defense, he could earn himself a spot on next season’s Laker team.
Austin Reaves: C+
Although Reaves couldn’t do much defensively against taller defenders, he had two steals. Offensively, he was ineffective, shooting just 2-for-6 from the field and missing his only 3-point attempt.
Dwight Howard: A+
Howard couldn’t hold Embiid back, but other than that, he picked up the Hot Tub Time Machine about a decade ago and gave everyone a reminder of what he used to do on a regular basis not too long ago.
He shot 9 of 14 from the field while drawing multiple fouls and was 6 of 9 from the free throw line for 24 points in 28 minutes. He also grabbed eight rebounds and added a steal and a block.
Russell Westbrook: B+
For most of the game, Westbrook struggled to connect shots and also committed seven of the Lakers’ 12 turnovers.
But he came in strong late, scoring 12 points in the fourth quarter as LA made a late run to challenge the Sixers.
Westbrook shot 10-for-20 overall from the field, including 2-for-5 from center, while also having nine rebounds and eight assists.
This was his fourth very good performance in a row. Maybe he really has raised his game after a first 60 and so many inconsistent and disappointing games this season.
Carmelo Anthony: A-
Anthony did a great job tonight, shooting 8-for-15 from the field to score 20 points and grab seven rebounds in 31 minutes.
The reason we gave him an A- instead of an A was that he was only 2-for-6 from 3-point range, while his defense left a lot to be desired. But overall, Anthony played very well and did his part to give the Lakers a chance to win.
Monk Malik: A-
Monk, at times, helped run the Lakers’ offense and took the lead to keep his team in the game, scoring 23 points in 32 minutes on 10-on-20 shooting.
Unfortunately, he was only able to shoot 3-for-9 from the center, as the Sixers did a good job of limiting his good looks from distance.
DJ Agustin: B
In 22 minutes off the bench, Agustín was solid. He made 2 of 4 shots from the field to finish with five points, along with four rebounds and four assists.
The Lakers, however, could have used a little more of him offensively, especially since they played only eight men tonight.