Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, center, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers center JaVale McGee, right, defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Joel Embiid had 28 points, 11 rebounds and six assists as the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Los Angeles Lakers 121-105 on Tuesday at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Philadelphia had 15 steals, with Jimmy Butler leading the 76ers with five.

Brandon Ingram had 36 points on 16-of-20 shooting for the 26-25 Lakers, who have lost four of their last five. The 33-18 76ers have won six of their last eight.

Los Angeles played without LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball, who were all sidelined with injuries.

           

Poor Showings Prove Lakers Must Make Every Effort to Land Anthony Davis

The reasons for the Lakers’ loss on Tuesday evening are fairly simple and symbolic of the team’s performance this season, regardless of who is on the court.

L.A. was inefficient on offense. Ingram shot 80 percent from the field on Tuesday, but the rest of the team went just 27-of-71 (38 percent). Also, the Lakers took poor care of the ball, with 21 turnovers on the evening.

Furthermore, L.A. couldn’t get stops when they counted the most. Of note, the Lakers cut the 76ers’ lead to single digits three times in the third quarter. Philadelphia proceeded to score each time down the court and never led by fewer than nine points in the fourth quarter.

Los Angeles is 21st in offensive efficiency, per ESPN.com. The team is also second-last in turnovers per game. And its defensive issues late in games are hard to ignore.

In fairness, the team has been without James since Christmas and has gone just 6-11 since. The Lakers are also a (mostly) young team developing on the fly in the United States’ second-biggest media market.

But at this point, the Lakers need to pull out all stops to acquire New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis, who has requested a trade.

First, LeBron James isn’t getting any younger. He’s 34 years old with 16-plus seasons (and 13 postseasons) under his belt. James has made a living proving people wrong, so maybe we’ll see him taking names into his 40s. But that remains to be seen, and the Lakers can’t afford to lose much time during his window with the team.

In other words, the Lakers can’t wait for the younger players to develop further when one of the top five players in the league is on the block.

Second, these are Davis’ three-year averages: 28.3 points, 11.8 rebounds, 2.4 blocks. For good measure, he’s shot 32.2 percent from three-point range. He’s a proven superstar who can single-handedly wreck any defense in the league. A team can put three 12th men alongside him and James and still have a chance on any given night.

The Lakers’ main young core of Ball, Ingram and Kuzma have each had their share of struggles, but they’ve also found successes. They all have the potential to become All-Stars in this league.

But Los Angeles is running out of time. If the Lakers can’t pull off a move before the February 7 trade deadline, then one needs to happen before the 2019-20 season begins.

                

76ers’ Patience With Jimmy Butler Starting to Pay Dividends

Keith Pompey of Philly.com wrote a Tuesday piece discussing the open line of communication between Butler and 76ers head coach Brett Brown, specifically citing a post-practice conversation where the two “acted out a few on-court scenarios and appeared to have a good dialogue for an extended time.”

That’s a positive sign after Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com wrote on January 5 that Butler “has aggressively challenged coach Brett Brown on his role in the offense, complicating an already tenuous chemistry among the team’s Big Three hierarchy.”

League sources spoke further with the ESPN duo, leading to the two writing that “Butler’s sluggish assimilation into the Sixers environment is causing some concern about his long-term viability and fit with the organization.”

Perhaps the transition was a bit rough, but if so, Butler and the team may have broken through that rough patch.

The swingman’s defense was in top form on Tuesday thanks to his five steals, and he also went 7-of-9 from the field as the Sixers coasted to a win. The victory put the 76ers into a virtual tie for third place in the Eastern Conference with the Indiana Pacers and just four games back of first.

There’s an important thing to remember in the midst of any reported Butler-76ers drama: The team is 20-9 with Butler on the court and 13-9 otherwise. Philadelphia is a better team with him on the floor, regardless of any perceived problems. Butler is an excellent two-way player who should be a serious problem in the playoffs. He can lock down an opponent on any given evening or go off for 30-plus points and come through in the clutch.

Ultimately, there’s no reason to worry about how Butler is assimilating quite yet, as the returns look mostly positive thus far. Stars don’t always mesh well to begin a new era (even the James-led 2010-11 Miami Heat were 9-8), but the 76ers are a team to be bullish on for a long playoff run.

                              

What’s Next?

The Lakers will play eight of their next nine games on the road but don’t have to leave town for the first, which is against the L.A. Clippers on Thursday. The 76ers will go up the coast to face the Golden State Warriors on the same day.

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