Thursday, May 26, 2022

76ers vs. Lakers takeaways: More franchise history for Joel Embiid, dominant defense from Matisse Thybulle

PHILADELPHIA — Two teams looking to climb the standings in their respective conferences met when the Philadelphia 76ers hosted the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night. The Lakers were without All-Star forward LeBron James, who missed the game with left knee soreness, but they did have Anthony Davis, who was playing in just his second game following an extended absence due to a MCL injury. The Sixers were without starting shooting guard Seth Curry, but they were relatively healthy otherwise. 

Philadelphia jumped out to an early lead in the contest — they outscored L.A. 32-22 in the first frame — and they were largely able to keep the Lakers at arms’ length after that. They took a 54-48 lead into the halftime locker room, and ultimately walked away with a convincing 105-97 win. As he has all season, Joel Embiid led the way for Philadelphia with 26 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, while Tobias Harris added 23 points, five rebounds and four assists of his own. 

Anthony Davis paced L.A. with 31 points and 12 rebounds, and Russell Westbrook had 20 points, four rebounds and three assists, but ultimately their combined production wasn’t enough to lead the Lakers to victory in James’ absence. 

The two teams will meet again in L.A. in late March, but before moving ahead with the season’s schedule, here’s a look at three key takeaways from Philadelphia’s victory on Thursday night. 

Embiid makes (more) 76ers history

It seems like All-Star center Joel Embiid makes Sixers franchise history on a nightly basis this season, and Thursday night was no exception. Prior to tipoff, Embiid was named an All-Star starter for the fifth consecutive season, and with his point production against the Lakers, the big man passed Sixers legend Moses Malone (7,511 points) for 16th on Philadelphia’s all-time scoring list. 

The contest was also the 16th straight game that Embiid scored at least 25 points, which is the second longest streak in franchise history. Only Allen Iverson, who accomplished the feat in 27 straight games during his MVP campaign in 2001, has a longer streak in Sixers history. 

Embiid is having an absolutely historic season for Philadelphia, and it sure doesn’t seem like he plans on slowing down any time soon. 

Dominant defense from Matisse Thybulle

Matisse Thybulle has garnered a reputation as one of the best perimeter defenders in the entire NBA, and that skill set was on full display against the Lakers. In 29 minutes of action, Thybulle compiled four steals and a block against L.A., and as they often do, a couple of those steals led directly to easy transition opportunities for Philadelphia. 

Early in the third quarter, Thybulle intercepted a pass from Malik Monk intended for Westbrook at the top of the key and took it the opposite direction for a two-handed flush: 

The play came at a point in the game when Philadelphia was up by just seven points, and in turn it provided a big boost of momentum when the Sixers needed it. Then, mere minutes later, Thybulle secured another steal, this time by leaping to snag a Westbrook pass out of the air and fluidly flipping it ahead to Tyrese Maxey for an uncontested finish: 

Those two plays really helped to swing the game in Philadelphia’s favor, and they serve as excellent examples of why Thybulle has become such an integral part of Philadelphia’s rotation, especially in Ben Simmons‘ absence. 

Anthony Davis looked like his old self 

If there was a silver lining for the Lakers in this game, it was the play of Anthony Davis, who was playing in just his second game after missing 17 straight with a MCL injury. After playing 25 minutes and scoring just eight points in his return game against the Nets in Brooklyn on Tuesday, Davis looked a lot more like his usual self against the Sixers. Davis played 34 minutes and scored 31 points in Philly, and he also secured 12 rebounds. His efficiency was also encouraging, as he shot 14-for-21 from the field. 

Obviously, the Lakers will need Davis to be at (or near) full strength if they’re going to make any sort of a real run this season, so the fact that he appears to be bouncing back and rounding into form after a long layoff is a solid sign for L.A. Now, they just need Davis, James and Westbrook to all be healthy at the same time so that they can start developing some chemistry and cohesion before postseason play. 

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