Philadelphia keeps answering every question asked of them.
Can they win against the best teams? They beat the Bulls, Hawks and Magic last week… and now you can add the Lakers to the list after a 95-90 76ers win Monday night.
But Philly doesn’t have a superstar, who is going to score late in the game for them? Meet Lou Williams. He comes off the bench with a fearless gunner’s mentality and he is the one guy who can create his own shot (or pass to others) in the crunch. He had 12 points in the final four minutes of this one. He finished with 24 total on 12 shots.
The Lakers are supposed to have a guy like that in Kobe Bryant.
But as it has been much of this season the Lakers lived by Kobe and lost by him.
Kobe came out on mission in this game to pass Shaq on the NBA all-time scoring list, hitting 8-of-early and put up 24 in the first half reaching his goal.
But then the Sixers came with hard doubles on Kobe starting late in the second quarter and that took him out of his rhythm — Kobe went 1-11 on his next dozen. And the Lakers offense struggled. As it has too often this season.
The Lakers do have other guys who can score. Andrew Bynum had 20 points on 13 shots, not to mention 20 rebounds, and he looked every part the All-Star Game starter. When he is aggressive as he was in this game, there are few in the league who can hang with him, and Philly didn’t have any of those guys. Pau Gasol wasn’t as sharp but he is still a very skilled big who had 16 in this game.
But those aren’t the guys who get the ball for the Lakers late in games — they abandon the playbook in favor of Kobe isolations. Check out the juxtaposition of late game shots between these teams. To set the stage, Bynum finished an ally-oop from Kobe and the Lakers were up 7 with 4:30 remaining in the game. Then it changed, first with a pretty rainbow by Jrue Holiday over Bynum.
• The Lakers followed that with a miss, the Sixers pushed it back in transition and Williams runs to the arc, where Derek Fisher sags off him — Andre Iguodala hits him with a pass and Williams drains it.
• Lakers turnover then next Philly possession Williams comes off the pick, Bynum shows out hard and will not leave him, so Williams takes Bynum and Bryant with him all the way to the corner, two quick passes with the Lakers out of position and it’s a Sixers layup.
• Kobe takes a tough contested two with Iguodala in his face, Bynum gets the offensive board, but then in trying to clear out to get the pass back he commits and offensive foul.
• Lou Williams comes off the screen, catch and shoot off a pick at the top of the key. Nothing but net.
• Kobe tries to get to his space on the baseline but Iggy is right there with long arms in his face, Kobe misses.
• Williams is the ball handler, comes off pick and Bynum shows out but doesn’t slide with him, Williams turns the corner and gets a clean look at a three. Nails it.
• Kobe in isolation takes a ridiculously long wing three that misses, but Gasol gets the rebound, so the Lakers reset and iso Kobe on the block, but he misses a contested turnaround.
• The Sixers push it back up, Williams is covered by Fisher in transition and blows around him like he’s an orange traffic cone. Williams then hits the floater over Gasol.
You get the idea.
Williams showed there is someone who can step up for the Sixers late.
The Lakers need diversity in their late-game sets, but this is where the lack of a decent point guard hurts them — Kobe can create his own shot, who can create one or get the ball into Bynum on the block. He also needs to deal better with double teams, that haunted him this game.
But the Lakers execution at the end is predictable. The Sixers, well, now we know it’s going to be Lou Williams, but he’s not that easy to stop.