Kobe Bryant attracted the crowd, Julius Erving drew the cheers, but it was Andrew Bynum and Derek Fisher who carried the load.
Bynum had a career-high 24 points, and Fisher scored 21 points, including 11 in the third quarter, as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the 76ers, 106-101, last night at the charged-up Wachovia Center.
The arena was as alive as it's been all season, but unfortunately for the Sixers, so were the Lakers (16-10).
Bryant, who has been hampered recently by a groin injury, needed 39 points to reach 20,000 and finished with 19. He was the fourth-leading scorer on his team because Lamar Odom scored 21. Bryant struggled from the field, shooting 6 for 20.
"We did a pretty good job on Kobe tonight, but the other guys stepped up," Willie Green, who had 16 points for the Sixers, said.
Bynum, who turned 20 in October, shot 10 for 11 and rarely strayed far from the basket. Fisher, meanwhile, shot 9 for 16 and added seven assists.
"The interior defense wasn't our best today, and we couldn't stop anything," said Sixers center Samuel Dalembert, who had 10 points and 14 rebounds. "It's not like they were killing us with posting."
Then what was it?
"It was simple basic things that we couldn't stop," Dalembert said.
Bynum was at the top of the list. The Lakers were criticized for selecting him 10th overall in the 2005 draft, though that chorus has changed.
"I think I'm getting better and better each with each game," Bynum said.
Bryant is one of the NBA's true drawing cards. Last season, the Sixers' only home sellout was against the Lakers, and he helped draw a crowd of 17,903 last night, the second-largest of the season.
Adding to the festivities were the appearances of Erving and Clint Richardson, who were honored at halftime as part of a season-long tribute to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Sixers' 1982-83 championship team.
The Sixers couldn't take advantage of the atmosphere, arguably the most electric at the Wachovia Center this season.
Andre Iguodala played solid defense on Bryant, but he shot only 7 for 21.
"You get a little tired defending him," Iguodala said. "There were a few times I was trying to catch my wind."
Bryant laughed when asked about Iguodala's defense.
"He did OK," Bryant said.
The nine-time all-star from Lower Merion said the Lakers have been using him as a decoy lately.
The Sixers missed the offense of point guard Lou Williams, who was sidelined with soreness in his fractured right big toe.
Andre Miller scored 21 points to lead the Sixers but had just five after halftime.
The Sixers trailed just 96-91 with under 3 minutes, 30 seconds left when Miller turned the ball over. Iguodala then fouled Bryant while attempting a trey.
Bryant made all three foul shots for a 99-91 lead with 3:16 left, and the Lakers kept the Sixers at a distance the rest of the way.
Now the Sixers (10-16) have lost two in a row and three of four as they visit the Memphis Grizzlies tonight.
"We've lost tough games," Iguodala said. "There have been small minor errors that we can change."
That would include defending on the interior, stopping teams from getting open looks, and limiting the easy drives to the basket.