Minus LeBron, Lakers routed by 76ers, Carmelo taunted by fan who ‘crossed lines’

Los Angeles Lakers' Anthony Davis, left, shoots the ball with Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid
Lakers’ Anthony Davis shoots the ball with Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid defending during the first half Thursday in Philadelphia.
(Chris Szagola / Associated Press)
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Whether it’s Orlando, Miami, Brooklyn or Philadelphia, Lakers fans fill the crowd in purple and gold jerseys for the chance to cheer for LeBron James.

Thursday, they got it — it just took longer than usual.

The Lakers fans in the crowd roared and held up their phones when James finally emerged from the locker room in the third quarter just as Anthony Davis hit a jumper.

Maybe if he were in uniform it would’ve mattered. But sidelined with a sore knee and bundled up in a hoodie and a flannel shirt, James was about as good to the Lakers on Thursday as anyone else on that bench.


Even with Davis outplaying MVP candidate Joel Embiid in a head-to-head matchup, the Lakers’ inconsistencies and lack of real production from its role players sank them in a one-sided 105-87 loss to Philadelphia.

The Lakers, who won a title on the backs of James and Davis, have barely had any time with both of them back since — a problem that’s followed them since they left the bubble in 2020.

“It’s kind of been a thing all year, though. … Even going back to last year with me and him — flopping in and out of the lineups,” Davis, obviously frustrated, said. “It’s nothing that we’re not used to.”

LeBron James will return to Cleveland as an NBA All-Star Game captain, and Ja Morant and Andrew Wiggins are headed there as first-time selections.

Jan. 27, 2022

As problematic than anything, though, was that this was the kind of game the Lakers were explicitly built to survive. The trade for Russell Westbrook, after all, was partly intended to up the Lakers’ firepower if James or Davis were unavailable.

Frank Vogel said as much before the Lakers beat the Nets, saying that he had hoped the team’s 7-10 record with Davis recovering from a sprained MCL would’ve been better. Even on nights when Westbrook has played well enough, the Lakers have been plagued by other issues — an ever-changing set of problems connected to the one big thing.

On Thursday, Vogel diagnosed the issues as stemming from a lack of ball movement, a responsibility that he said falls on more shoulders than Westbrook, its point guard.


“As a group, we didn’t move the ball well enough, we didn’t put enough pressure on the basket and we tried to create too much offense on our own as a group,” Vogel said. “We have to put pressure on the paint with our movement. I thought there was too much of guys trying to create that on their own. And then when we did, we shot poorly at the rim. We shot poorly on open threes. You need everything you can get against a team like Philly.”

And the Lakers absolutely didn’t have everything on Thursday.

While Vogel didn’t express serious concern about James’ injury — a sore left knee that flared up Thursday morning — it certainly had to be disappointing. One game after the Lakers got to play their three best players together for the first time in more than a month, any hope of building continuity out of that win was snatched away.

James, who was voted captain of the All-Star team for the fifth straight time earlier Thursday, is considered day to day with the soreness in his left knee, Vogel said.

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid drives upcourt with Lakers' Talen Horton-Tucker defending.
Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid drives upcourt with Lakers’ Talen Horton-Tucker defending during the second half Thursday in Philadelphia.
(Chris Szagola / Associated Press)

Despite getting to within two early in the third quarter, the 76ers’ lead ballooned to 22. The Lakers, though, couldn’t get the game within single digits — their final comeback push ended with a Westbrook turnover and an Embiid bank shot.

Luckily the Lakers escaped without a serious incident after Carmelo Anthony confronted multiple fans about their language, later saying that he was called “boy.”


“You try to play through certain things. You play through the heckles. But that’s all fun and games. I mean, I’ve been doing that for 19, 20 years. Especially playing here, it’s been a great place to come in and play. And fans, I know how the fans are here,” Anthony said. “But there’s just certain things you don’t bring to any type of sporting event. There’s just certain things you don’t say to anybody. If I was outside and I bumped into you and you said those things to me, then it would be a totally different story.”

At least one fan was ejected.

Embiid led four 76ers in double figures with 26. Davis scored 31 points to go with 12 rebounds, four blocks and two steals. Westbrook added 20, but only Monk could join them in double figures with 11 (needing 13 shots).

And the Lakers wouldn’t be these Lakers without another potential hurdle sprouting in a blink, this time with Davis injuring his wrist after an in-air collision with Embiid. Davis said X-rays on the wrist were negative, but the wrist was sore late in the game. He also said his knee was sore following his first game back in Brooklyn, putting his status for Friday’s game in Charlotte in, at least, some doubt.

Still, he was the undeniable positive, the Lakers’ big man moving confidently on his knee on both sides of the court, mostly matched up with Embiid.

“It’s always fun playing against another great big,” Davis said.

If there’s hope for the Lakers, it lives in things like this with Davis staring down one of the hottest players in the league and winning the one-on-one matchup.

Statue temporarily marks the spot where Kobe and Gianna Bryant and seven others perished as fans flock to the hillside to mark the second anniversary of their deaths.

Jan. 26, 2022

“Well there are reasons why we keep saying we’re optimistic about what we can do this year,” Vogel said. “We just haven’t seen it all together at once. But the belief in our group is very strong. There’s still a lot of ways that we have to improve. But seeing Anthony play that way reinforces our belief.”


But with James battling a sore knee and Davis now dealing with a sore wrist, that optimism is going to have to stay as a belief. Firm evidence? That’s going to, once again, have to wait.