All season long, Kobe Bryant has played above his usual all-star level, and for his return trip to his hometown, his teammates decided to follow his lead.
Struggling mightily for a majority of the season, the Los Angeles Lakers put a hurt on the 76ers with Sunday's 111-98 win at the Wells Fargo Center.
Bryant, a Lower Merion product, scored 34 points, one of six double-figure scorers for the Lakers. Metta World Peace (formerly Ron Artest) added 19 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.
Nick Young scored a season-high 30 points for the Sixers.
The Lakers are now 11-14 while the Sixers fell to 12-12 after losing their third consecutive game.
Most disconcerting for Sixers coach Doug Collins was the way the Sixers defended the three-point shot, especially in the first half. The Lakers were 10 of 15 from beyond the arc in the first half, a floor record for most threes made in a half, while taking a 60-50 lead.
Sure, the Sixers were better in the second half, limiting the Lakers to 4 for 19 from beyond the arc, but the damage had been done, the floor had been spread, and the winners often had easy access to the basket.
"Unfortunately, we are struggling mightily to defend the three," Collins said.
He suggested that it wouldn't get better until the Sixers' communication improves.
During the three-game losing streak, their opponents have shot 26 for 59 from beyond the arc while the Sixers have been 15 for 51.
Bryant called the win one of the Lakers' better games.
"Yeah, we really have an understanding now of how [coach] Mike [D'Antoni] wants us to play," said Bryant, who shot 12 for 21 from the field, added six assists, but also had five turnovers. "Just move without the ball, attack when you have it, and hit the open three."
The Sixers probably didn't have stopping Darius Morris as a main duty in their defensive game plan, but the second-year guard from Michigan had a career-high 15 points, all in the first half.
Dwight Howard added a quiet 17 points and 11 rebounds, Chris Duhon scored 14, and former Sixer Jodie Meeks added 12.
If the Lakers had played with this type of balance all year, they wouldn't have dug themselves such an early-season hole.
The Sixers played for the second game without point guard Jrue Holiday (left foot sprain), and, of course, former Laker Andrew Bynum has yet to play due to his chronically injured knees. Bynum did say before the game that he felt he was getting closer to a return.
Yet nobody should cry about injuries to the Lakers. They played without injured Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, Steve Blake, and Jordan Hill.
The Lakers turned their 10-point halftime lead to 87-73 after three quarters and never let up.
Collins said the 76ers did some good things offensively, such as shoot 40 percent (10 for 25) from three-point range.
Yet that was offset by committing 18 turnovers, which tied a season high.
Evan Turner, replacing Holiday at the point, played nearly 43 minutes and had 16 points, while Spencer Hawes scored 16 off the bench.
Turner - who banged his shoulder into World Peace but said he was fine - was upset with the Lakers' three-pointers.
"We have to get back to the drawing board," Turner said. "The most important thing is to get our hands dirty when defending the three."
Getting a hand in the opponent's face wouldn't hurt, either.