Kuzma’s 39-point per­for­mance wasted

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Tania Gan­guli

PHILADEL­PHIA — For a while the Lak­ers hung with the Philadel­phia 76ers, match­ing their scor­ing out­burst.

But a lack of de­fen­sive in­ten­sity ul­ti­mately hurt them too much against a team built for a cham­pi­onship run. Joel Em­biid scored 37 points and the 76ers beat the Lak­ers 143-120 on Sun­day.

“They had 70 points in our paint,” Lak­ers coach Luke Wal­ton said. “We talk about our shell defense, our ro­ta­tions, pro­tect­ing and then re­cover out. And we just didn’t do it. Guys stayed hugged to their man. There’s times Em­biid just drib­bled the ball the length of the court and dunked. … That’s not the type of team we want to be.”

Out­side of Ben Sim­mons, who made only three of 13 shots, the 76ers starters — Em­biid, Jimmy But­ler, J.J. Redick and for­mer Clip­per To­bias Har­ris — made 66% of their shots and scored 95 points.

The de­fen­sive break­downs wasted a big night by Kyle Kuzma, who scored 39 points, 23 of them in the big­gest first quar­ter of his ca­reer.

“We just had too many break­downs, way too many break­downs,” said LeBron James, who had 18 points, 10 re­bounds and nine as­sists. “I mean we scored the ball as well as you can score the ball, espe­cially in that first quar­ter, but we gave up too many paint points. We didn’t keep the floor shrunk and make them make many out­side jumpers to be­gin the game, and once they started get­ting to the paint it kind of opened up ev­ery­thing else.”

Wal­ton tried an un­ortho­dox start­ing lineup, bring­ing Ra­jon Rondo off the bench rather than start­ing him at point guard. Bran­don In­gram was the Lak­ers’ of­fi­cial point guard, though James of­ten played the role. Newcomer Reg­gie Bul­lock started at shoot­ing guard in his Lak­ers de­but, and JaVale McGee was the cen­ter.

The Lak­ers (28-28), com­ing off a post-trade dead­line high in a win at Bos­ton, made 56% of their shots in the first quar­ter, but the new-look 76ers matched them. The game was tied at 61 with four min­utes left in the sec­ond quar­ter, but the 76ers pulled away as the Lak­ers strug­gled to con­tain their big men. L.A. dropped to 2-3 on its sea­son-high six-game trip.

“Get­ting [Lonzo Ball] back into the mix is go­ing to be one thing,” Kuzma said. “He’s had a hell of a sea­son de­fen­sively and we kind of feed off of him. He’s pick­ing up 94 feet, get­ting stops all over the floor, mak­ing great de­fen­sive in­stincts.

“Re­gard­less of not hav­ing him or not, still no ex­cuse. We as a team we just have to play defense, it’s all about ef­fort, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and get­ting the new guys to get into it as well.”

Bul­lock had two points in 31 min­utes and Mike Mus­cala, who played for the 76ers just last week, had eight points in his Lak­ers de­but.

Sim­mons seek­ing some tips from Magic

Magic John­son said Sim­mons reached out to him through the Lak­ers to ask for tips on play­ing point guard at his size. Sim­mons is 6 feet 10, one inch taller than John­son.

John­son at­tempted cau­tion when dis­cussing Sim­mons’ re­quest.

“I said, ‘Hey you got to clear it with the league,’ and if ev­ery­body on the Six­ers sign off, we sign off, the league sign off that’s not noth­ing go­ing on but he wants to play the po­si­tion as a big guard … fine, I will do that,” John­son said. “But if ev­ery­body doesn’t sign off then we can’t get to­gether. But I love his game, I love his vi­sion, I love also too, he’s very, in terms of bas­ket­ball IQ, very high bas­ket­ball IQ.”

The Lak­ers were fined $500,000 for tam­per­ing with Paul George while he played for the In­di­ana Pac­ers. They were fined $50,000 for an­other vi­o­la­tion when John­son made com­pli­men­tary state­ments about Mil­wau­kee Bucks star Gian­nis An­te­tok­oun­mpo.

Chris Szagola As­so­ci­ated Press

KYLE KUZMA scored 39 points in Sun­day’s 143-120 loss, with 23 in the first quar­ter.

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