Sixers-Lakers: Joel Embiid's career night, and other quick thoughts from Philly's 115-109 win

76ers Lakers Basketball
Sixers center Joel Embiid (right) smiles after scoring as guard Ben Simmons stands in the background.

Joel Embiid explodes

Early in the fourth quarter he became the only Sixer to hit more than one three in the game at the time. A few moments later Embiid made it a career-high scoring night, and he didn’t stop there. With more spin moves, eurosteps, pump fakes, and aggression than we’ve seen from the big man this season, he made 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, seven blocks, and 16-of-19 from the free throw line look easy in a svelte 35 minutes, 48 seconds. Embiid’s points, assists, and blocks were all career highs.

Ben Simmons playing off the ball

He punishes at the rim, his length is a lethal weapon, impressive is an understatement for his speed. And, more and more, we are seeing that he is efficient and effective off the ball. His cuts, dives, and even his screens are improving with every game and it’s making him more dangerous than he already is. Simmons finished with an 18-point, 10-assist double-double (his ninth of the season), to go with nine rebounds. He has scored in double figures in each of his 14 NBA games.

Lakers take advantage of the paint

In the first half the Lakers scored 34 of their 54 points in the paint. Many of those points came on second-chance opportunities. The Sixers allowed the Lakers to pick up 17 second chance points in the first half off of 14 offensive rebounds. It’s not the first time the Sixers have had trouble locking down the paint. This time, the Sixers didn’t correct in the second half. The Lakers closed out the night with 66 points in the paint, 22 offensive rebounds, and 27 second chance points.

Front court rotation unclear

Part of the trouble in the paint could be the Sixers seemingly undecided rotation at the five position. Amir Johnson did not play at all against the Warriors on Saturday. Richaun Holmes did not play against the Clippers on Monday. The two split duties against the Lakers, but played short minutes. Part of that is that Embiid continues to extend his minutes, but there doesn’t seem to be a clear or reasoned decision about which guy is backing up Embiid or getting playing time in particular situations.

Sixers cold from three

Robert Covington hit a couple key threes. Embiid was the Sixers best three-point shooter against the Lakers making 2-of-3. If you leave out Covington’s 5-of-8 on Monday against the Clippers and 2-of-5 against the Lakers, the Sixers have shot a combined 7-of-51 in the last two games from beyond the arc. Noticeable in the two L.A. games is that J.J. Redick went 1-of-15 from deep. One of the reasons the Sixers have been able to elevate their play is having enough weapons from long range to make teams pay, but the games in L.A. are not helping their cause.