Sixers vs. Lakers: Embiid refuses to be Outshined

The Sixers and Lakers met on Wednesday night at the Staples Center, in a much anticipated early season match-up. The hype around this game surrounded two rookies, but quickly turned into a further coming out party for two blossoming sophomore NBA talents. The Sixers outscored the Lakers 32-25 in the fourth to pull away for a 115-109 victory on the road. Let’s take a look at some of the games prevailing storylines.

Sophomore Slump? Not a chance

A game originally focused around two star rookies, Ben Simmons and Lonzo Ball, turned into a career night for Joel Embiid.  Additionally, second year man Brandon Ingram had a great night on the other end for the LA. Embiid chipped in 46 points, 15 rebounds, 7 blocks and 7 assists on 14/20 from the floor and 16/19 from the line in Philly’s win. The center from Kansas is asserting himself as one of the best players in the league, which is incredible when you account that Wednesday was the 43rd career game he has played in at the NBA level. Describing him as anything other than unfair is underselling his current and potential (scary he can still get a lot better) production level way short.

Ingram scored 26 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out 3 assists for the Lakers. Ingram has gotten off to a good start during his second season. After struggling at times during his rookie campaign, he has upped his scoring 5 points per game (9 to 14), rebounding is up by 1.2 boards per game (4 to 5.2) and his shooting percentages are up across the board. While the North Carolina product has a ways to go, the developments he has shown early this season have been extremely promising. Ingram/Kuzma could develop into quite the combo down the road, if the Lakers exercise patience here, but with potentially enough cap room to go after two max players in the summer of 2018, it remains to be seen if both remain in the LA’s long-term plans.

The Good: Rookie Edition

While overshadowed by a career night from Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons looked every bit worth the hype on Wednesday night. The rookie went for 18 points, 10 assists, 9 rebounds and 5 steals. He was one rebound shy of a triple-double, and finished a couple of tough buckets around the rim over Lonzo Ball. The first quarter was a great representation of the chemistry building between Simmons and Embiid. Both players dished out 3 assists (mostly to each other) and imposed their will whenever they wanted. Philly invested heavily in trusting the process and its is paying major dividends. Future Celtics/Sixers series in the Eastern Conference playoffs will be must watch television.

Kyle Kuzma continued his hot start to his rookie season as well Wednesday night. The rookie from Utah chipped in 24 points and 7 rebounds, and provided a nice complement to Brandon Ingram’s scoring throughout most of the night. Kuzma was extremely underrated coming out of college, and has proven to potentially become a factor in the rookie of the year race. While their more heralded rookie is off to a slower start, Lakers fans have to be excited about the promise shown from Mr. Kuzma.


The Bad: Rookie Edition

Lonzo Ball’s struggles continued on Wednesday night as the 2nd overall pick could not get anything going. The rookie played just 21 minutes and mustered 2 points on 1-9 from the field (0-6 from 3). He also only added 5 rebounds and 2 assists to that line. While Lonzo is talented, he has struggled mightily with adjusting to the NBA game. His shooting percentages, 30% from the field, 23% from 3 and 50% from the line, are indicative of both his inability to finish around the rim and hit the three ball with any consistency. We are still a month into his rookie year, and Lonzo is going to only get better, but it is hard to ignore the obvious struggles he has had. I, for one, am rooting for Lonzo, but he has a longer ways to go than originally thought.

While the Lakers were always going to struggle this year it’s been good to see some of their young players step up and perform consistently night after night. Once Lonzo gets it together and makes more consistent strides in the right direction, it is going to be fun watching Ball/Kuzma/Ingram develop a foundation for the legendary franchise. For Philadelphia, they look like they have the makings of a playoff team, and one that no one in the Eastern Conference wants to see in the playoffs. Are they a threat to win a title this year? Absolutely not, but they will be a factor for years to come, as long as they can stay healthy.

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