Sixers observations

3 observations after Sixers lose close contest to Lakers to start their L.A. weekend 

The Sixers dropped a 101-94 game Friday night.

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A close East vs. West contest Friday night between two teams in the play-in tournament picture ended with both the Sixers and Lakers sitting at 38-32.

The Sixers suffered a second consecutive defeat to begin their West Coast road trip, falling to a 101-94 loss.

Tyrese Maxey was the team's top scorer with 27 points.

Kelly Oubre Jr. had 19 points, six rebounds, three steals and three assists. Tobias Harris posted 16 points, a season-high 13 rebounds and four assists.

The Lakers were led by stars Anthony Davis (23 points, 19 rebounds, four blocks) and LeBron James (20 points, eight rebounds, six assists).

Joel Embiid (left knee meniscus procedure), De’Anthony Melton (lumbar spine bone stress), Robert Covington (left knee bone bruise) and Kai Jones (right hamstring strain) were out for the Sixers.

The Lakers were down Taurean Prince, Jarred Vanderbilt, Gabe Vincent and Christian Wood.

The Sixers will stay in Los Angeles and face the Clippers on Sunday afternoon. Here are observations on their loss to the Lakers:

Harris’ return to the lineup 

Harris returned following a three-game absence with a right ankle sprain. He took Nicolas Batum’s place in the Sixers’ starting five.

Harris was exceptionally aggressive to open the game, attempting eight field goals in the first quarter. He made two mid-range shots but came up empty on everything else. 

Sixers head coach Nick Nurse called an after-timeout play late in the first to get Harris a post-up on Spencer Dinwiddie, but the 31-year-old forward failed to convert a short jumper. Harris drew two foul shots early in the second quarter and missed both of those, too. 

Still, he didn’t completely fade from the game the way he sometimes has this year during poor post-All-Star performances. Harris kept firing open jumpers and went on a personal 5-0 run in the second quarter that tied the contest at 43-all. His effort was also solid as a defender and rebounder. Harris served as the Sixers’ primary defender on James, who was scoreless in the first quarter.  

Ultimately, the Sixers needed Harris to deliver more shotmaking in Friday's second half.

On a night where he played a game-high 41 minutes, Harris scored no points in the third quarter and four in the fourth.

Turnover battle dominance

Coming off a six-point, zero free-throw outing Wednesday in the Sixers’ loss to the Suns, Maxey scored an and-one layup a couple of minutes in. 

That play didn’t immediately unlock his usual bag of tricks, though. Maxey was off on a couple early mid-range tries, missed a deep three-pointer, and shot 2 for 7 overall in the first half.

Oubre also began 2 for 7, though he closed the second quarter by throwing down one of his explosive, fearless slams that have become semi-routine. 

The Sixers held a two-point halftime edge despite shooting only 36 percent from the floor. Their consistent excellence in the turnover differential department shined again. Maxey, who has the lowest turnover rate of any NBA point guard this season according to Cleaning the Glass, committed zero giveaways Friday.

James had eight turnovers, tying his season high. The Sixers earned a massive 27-8 points-off-turnovers advantage on the night.

They forced a Lakers turnover early in the third quarter with one of their many blitzes on D’Angelo Russell, which led to Oubre scoring in transition. Oubre got another fast-break hoop in the third after Harris hustled back to intercept a James lob. 

Maxey drilled his first shot of the third period, sinking a step-back three following a Kyle Lowry ghost screen, and the Sixers built a seven-point lead late in the quarter.

Sixers’ fourth-quarter offense fails to deliver 

While efficiency and outside shooting again were not Oubre’s strong suits, he posed a constant downhill driving threat while also flashing the passing skill he’s shown a tad more lately.

Oubre made impressive dishes to set both Paul Reed and Mo Bamba up for dunks. He’s looked capable recently of anticipating when teammates might be open, seeing some of those windows as he’s driving, and trusting the pass as the best play. 

Maxey had another rough three-point shooting game (1 for 9), but he still rediscovered his groove offensively in the second half, regularly scoring around the rim as both a lead ball handler and off-ball guard curling effectively around screens. He posted 22 points after intermission.

As a team, the Sixers recorded just 18 points in the fourth quarter.

Some of that can be attributed to woeful shooting; Harris followed up a Batum air ball with one of his own. The Sixers shot 8 for 37 (21.6 percent) from three-point territory.

They had several fundamental, inexcusable sort of miscues in the fourth quarter, too. Maxey broke open with a backdoor cut on an after-timeout play, but Bamba threw the ball out of bounds. Harris committed a bad turnover on a basic, unguarded perimeter pass intended for Lowry.

It all added up to the Sixers holding a 9-15 record since Embiid's injury with one more game in L.A. on deck.

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