Immediate Reaction: Sixers Beat Kobe Bryant, Lakers for First Win of the Season
It had been 250 days since the Sixers last won a regular season basketball game.
That prolonged drought finally came to an end Tuesday night when the the Sixers won their first game of the season, and first in their last 29, beating the Los Angeles Lakers 103-91 tonight in front of a sold out crowd at the Wells Fargo Center.
“I look at those young guys that navigated what we have been through, and they truly stayed together,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said after the game. “I’m proud that they stayed together. That they truly do knock out good days, and we do believe that they will add up.
“I’m pleased for the city,” Brown continued. “We were pleased to come in here and get a win for our fans. They deserved it. Obviously this is a relief, on many levels, but we’re going to get greedy. We want a little more.”
The win was a long time coming for the Sixers, who had built, but failed to hold, fourth quarter leads in each of the previous five games.
“Coach Brown just told us to stay with the pace. We can’t try to slow down the game in the 4th quarter and try to kill the clock,” Nerlens Noel — who finished with 14 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists — said after the game. “We have to stick to our game, keep the ball moving, and look to score even more. Guys were a lot more settled in late-game situations and that helped us execute.”
Here are some quick thoughts from tonight’s game:
* The Sixers rallied from a 14-point second quarter deficit.They were able to cut the lead to 8 at half time, trailing 58-50 at the break. The Sixers then came out and dominated the third quarter, outscoring the Lakers 30-17 in the frame that has frequently been their Achilles heel this season. The quarter was jump-started by a three-point barrage from Robert Covington and Isaiah Canaan, who combined for 15 points and 4 made three-pointers in the frame.
* This was another tough match-up for Sixers rookie Jahlil Okafor, who finished with just 12 points on 6-14 shooting from the field. With the exception of a baseline drive early in the game, Lakers center Roy Hibbert was able to force Okafor away from the basket and prevent him from getting easy looks. The Lakers guards pinched down and doubled Okafor — unnecessarily — a couple of times, resulting in a few open looks from the Sixers’ perimeter shooters, but for the most part Hibbert was able to play Okafor 1-on-1, and the Sixers offense takes a hit when teams can do that.
* Kobe Bryant started the game by making three of his first four shots from the field, all of them from three-point range. He had 13 points on 5-10 shooting in the first quarter, but shot only 2-16 from the field for the rest of the game. After the game, Sixers head coach Brett Brown said his team looked star-struck at the beginning, and was upset with his team’s defense in the first half.
* Watching Kobe Bryant, at this stage of his career, blow right by Nik Stauskas off the dribble is a a pretty good depiction of Stauskas’ defensive concerns.
* Jerami Grant rotating over to swat Kobe Bryant’s shot into the third row could have been the highlight of the game. Grant was excellent on the night, finishing with 14 points on 7 field goal attempts, 7 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. The Sixers recorded 8 blocked shots on the night.
* Robert Covington was the best player on the floor tonight, and (outside of a few defensive lapses on Kobe that he mostly didn’t convert on) I don’t think it was really close. Covington finished with 23 points on 8-16 shooting from the field, including 5-11 from three-point range, to go along with 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocked shots. The Sixers were a +18 in the 34 minutes Covington played, -6 in the 14 minutes he was on the bench. Covington is averaging 18.8 points per game over his last 6 games.
* Roy Hibbert got into an altercation with Isaiah Canaan, Jerami Grant, and JaKarr Sampson that surprisingly did not result in any ejections, despite Hibbert shoving a referee and Noel joining the scuffle from the bench, although all three of Hibbert, Sampson and Canaan did receive technical fouls for the scuffle. The Sixers were only up 2 at the time and it seemed to ignite the team, something which Brett Brown admitted he thought was a spark during his post-game press conference.
* “Beat LA” chants are always fun, regardless of the importance of the game.
* Nerlens Noel looked like the Noel of last year. The days off likely helped, as Noel had missed his previous two games with a sore right knee. Limiting his playing time with Jahlil Okafor likely helped as well. Noel finished with 14 points on 5-7 shooting from the field, while adding 9 rebounds, a steal, and some nifty passes in his 26 minutes off the bench.
* The Sixers shot 14-32 (43.8%) from three-point range on the night, which was the second-most made three pointers in a game this season by the Sixers. Robert Covington (5-11), Isaiah Canaan (4-7), Nik Stauskas (2-4), and Hollis Thompson (2-6) led the way from the perimeter.
Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine’s new Sixers Post. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.