LOS ANGELES - You couldn't help but get the feel that back in Philadelphia last night's game between the 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers made all the noise of a tree falling in the woods with no one around.
But yes, there was another game involving one of Philadelphia's professional teams and while this one didn't have nearly the significance of the Eagles and Cowboys, it was on the schedule and it had to be played. And when you've lost 13-straight away from home, it means a lot to try and snap that streak.
That's just what the Sixers did at the Staples Center in front of a very quiet crowd, pinning a 111-104 loss on the Lakers and gaining just their second road win of the season in 15 attempts.
The defense, particularly in transition, finally put forth the type of performance coach Brett Brown has been looking for as they gave up just eight fast-break points on the night.
"It's always been transition defense, since we started, just amped up, more serious, more detailed, to the point where you get to the areas you think you should address," said Brown of the team's defensive outlook. "It's all-consuming to me and they took the brunt of it. But it's transition defense and then just the basic parts of other areas. But we really beat up on getting back. You have to get back. You have to keep the game in front of you. Any time you have two attacking guards like Tony Wroten and Michael Carter-Williams you're dealing with other issues on who's covering back. As a team we have to guard the ball. It's just all the pieces and coaching points and techniques and areas of effort that we demand."
It worked well last night. But defense alone can't carry the team, and for the fourth-straight game the offensive burden was handled mostly by Thaddeus Young. He entered the game on the hottest three-game tear of his career, having scored 85 points and draining 11 of his 14 three-point attempts. Last night he had a couple of huge buckets down the stretch and finished with 25 points and nine rebounds.
"I'm just being more aggressive," Young said. "When I touch the ball I'm just being shot-ready, offensive-minded. I'm driving the basketball and trying to get to the free-throw line. I can either get an easy bucket or step back and guys give me some daylight and I can just pull up and shoot the three with confidence."
It's not just the scoring of Young that has impressed his coach, but the team's overall play.
"I feel like there's a toughness defensively," Brown said. "That's the area that we're challenging everybody - each other, coaching staff, coaches to players, players to players. We need to get tougher. Whether that's screen-setting on offense, whether that's coming up with a loose ball, whether that's admitting you have a small team and you better box out, whether it's switching and being vocal and keeping guards in front of you. All those pieces need to be what we're trying to build, and Thaddeus' toughness and his resilience. You get tricked by him having 30 or he's making threes. I think he feels good about himself when he does that and perhaps he has great carry-over into an energized defensive player. But that's what stands out most to me in his recent games.
Evan Turner, who missed Saturday's game in Phoenix with a sore right knee, had plenty of spring in his step and contributed 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists, while Spencer Hawes had 19 points and eight rebounds. Michael Carter Williams collected 13 points and five each of assists and rebounds and James Anderson chipped in 11 points and seven rebounds.
Former Sixer Nick Young fired in 26 points for the Lakers.
Once again the Sixers were playing a team thinned by injuries as Pau Gasol was out with a respiratory infection, center Chris Kaman was limited due to an ankle injury, and backup point guard Xavier Henry left the game in the first half with a strained right knee. Add to that that some guy named Kobe Bryant sidelined for at least a few more weeks and you understand why the Lakers don't pose the intimidation factor on opponents at this time.