The Philadelphia 76ers demonstrated how much of an advantage youth and fresher legs can be sometimes against a team of veteran All-Stars.
Jrue Holiday had 26 points and 10 assists, Evan Turner added 22 points and 13 rebounds, and the 76ers rang in the new year with a 103-99 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night.
”I think they had all their star power out there, but we came out and played, and really played together,” Holiday said. ”It feels awesome. This is actually my first win against the Lakers, so I can’t start off the New Year a better way.”
Kobe Bryant, who shifted from shooting guard to small forward five games ago in coach Mike D’Antoni’s redesigned rotation, led Los Angeles with 36 points.
The Lakers (15-16) have matched their worst start after 31 games since the 2002-03 season, when they began defense of their third straight NBA title with a 12-19 record. They are 10th in the Western Conference, 1-1/2 games out of a playoff spot — a revolting development for a team that missed the postseason only twice times in the previous 36 years and not since 2005.
”It’s frustrating,” said point guard Steve Nash, who had 12 points and 10 assists. ”We’re in a tough position and we really have a lot of ground to make up. We’re not finding the answers right now. So many situations just seem new, and I think we’re struggling to find that little bit of connectivity that makes a team a team.”
The Lakers, who tied a franchise record with 10 3-pointers in the first half of their 111-98 win at Philadelphia on Dec. 16, were 1 for 11 from 3-point range before intermission in the rematch and finished 3 for 22 from behind the arc.
Their next game is Friday night against the Clippers, whose franchise-record 17-game winning streak ended in Denver a couple hours earlier. But when D’Antoni was asked a couple hours before Tuesday’s contest if there was a danger of his team looking past the 76ers to the next one, he said the Lakers weren’t good enough to look past anyone.
”We didn’t look past them. I mean, you just saw an old team,” Bryant said. ”I don’t know how else to put it. We’re just slow, and they’re a team that’s younger with fresher legs and played with more energy. We were just stuck in the mud. And as individuals, we all have to figure out how to get ourselves ready each and every game to have a high-level game. That’s a big thing when you’re starting to age. It’s tough, and it takes a lot of commitment.”
Pau Gasol had 11 points and nine rebounds, but shot only 2 for 12 while playing on a sore right foot. Dwight Howard missed his first five shots and finished 1 for 7 with seven points and 14 boards. The six-time All-Star’s only field goal came with 6:15 left in the third quarter, a put-back dunk that reduced Philadelphia’s lead to 67-63.
Down by nine with just under 3 minutes to play, the Lakers closed to 99-97 on Bryant’s 3-pointer with 1:28 left. But Spencer Hawes responded with a 21-footer 16 seconds later and Holiday helped close it out on a driving dunk with 22.4 seconds on the clock.
”I was hyped,” Holiday said. ”I thought right there it was pretty much over. But with the Lakers and all the firepower they have, anything can happen.”
The 76ers outscored the Lakers 11-3 over the final 2:20 of the half to pull ahead 54-50, and extended the margin to eight points after three quarters. Los Angeles trailed 89-79 after Holiday’s jumper with 6:54 left in the game, then closed to 94-90 on Metta World Peace’s jumper a few minutes later. But the Sixers responded by scoring the next five points, including a layup by Jason Richardson that made it 99-90 with 2:57 left.
”We just didn’t play together, especially on the defensive end, and we had a lot of mistakes down the stretch,” Howard said. Nobody rotated fast enough, and that’s where we lost the game. The games we’ve won – blowing teams out – we’ve played a certain way. The games we’ve lost, we’ve played a different way. So we need to find a balance.”
Notes: Nash needs 28 assists to join John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Mark Jackson and Magic Johnson as the only players in NBA history with at least 10,000. … The 76ers are 14-0 when leading after three quarters, compared to 1-16 when trailing going into the fourth. … After wrapping up this eight-game road trip against Phoenix, Oklahoma City and San Antonio, the 76ers will play 13 of their next 15 at home. … Lakers reserve F Antawn Jamison was benched for the sixth straight game. The 15-year veteran, a two-time All-Star and former sixth man of the year (2003-04), hasn’t played since Dec. 16, when he went scoreless in 13 minutes against the 76ers.