AS FAR AS losses go, this one actually wasn't so bad for the 76ers, in the grand scheme of things. While coach Brett Brown and the players don't want to hear the talk of jockeying for draft position, the 113-111 overtime loss to the visiting Los Angeles Lakers benefited the Sixers in a couple of ways.
They dropped to 18-57 on the season, keeping them planted with the third-worst record in the NBA. The third-worst team has a 15.6 percent chance of earning the top pick in the draft lottery. The win improved the Lakers to 20-53, which lands them as the fourth-worst team in the league (11.9 percent chance at top pick). Also, it betters the odds a little that LA could wind up with a lottery pick below No. 5. If that happens, the pick goes to the Sixers. If it it is 1 through 5, the Lakers keep it.
"You just play," Brown said. "I sit back and I look that you go to Cleveland and you hold someone to 87 points. You close out a Denver Nugget game by holding them to nine on their home court [in the fourth quarter]. Just look at the effort that the guys give defensively, and I don't have much more to say.
"We had that bad second period of [giving up] 34 points. Other than that, we competed."
While fans had talked about wanting to lose this game for better positioning, there was absolutely no evidence of that in the Wells Fargo Center. It was never more evident than with 4 minutes, 34 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, when Nerlens Noel had what appeared to be a monster block on a dunk attempt by Jordan Hill. He was called for a questionable foul and Sixers fans didn't stop harassing the referees for the rest of the game.
Noel again put forth a fine effort, with 19 points and 14 rebounds. It was his fourth double-double over the past five games and his 17th of the season. Isaiah Canaan scored 18 off the bench and Ish Smith had 17.
Jordan Clarkson had 26, Jabari Brown 22 and Wayne Ellington 20 for the Lakers.
Brown continuously called Noel's number toward the end of the game and it was his floater with 12.9 seconds to go in overtime that tied it at 111-111. But Clarkson got behind the defense and deposited a layup with a second to go for the win.
"I think overall we played hard and gave it our all," Noel said. "That's all you can really ask for at this point in the season. We've made strides with all the new guys we have. This is a real close-knit group that goes out here and plays together. I'm proud of that."
Jason Richardson's return to action this season after being out for close to two full seasons was a feel-good story in a long season. So when Brett Brown said before last night's game that Richardson had some swelling on his repaired left knee and would miss a game or two more, it was only natural to start thinking about the 34-year-old's future.
But a little bit later in front of his locker, the always affable Richardson shoved away any idea that the latest setback could have ramifications on his future. In his last nine games, Richardson has shot 18-for-78 (23.1 percent) and 7-for-39 on threes (17.9 percent)
"It happened out in LA [last week]," said Richardson, saying that a hard high school gym floor where the team shot around last Sunday was to blame. "I've had some pain since then. I kind of felt it through the Laker game and I played in Denver and it just kind of flared up. I'm just being precautious and taking a couple of games off. I'm expecting to play on Wednesday.
"That's just how it's going to happen for the rest of my career. I'm going to have good days and bad days, and I'll take a couple of days off and get right back to it."
The Sixers were also without Jerami Grant and Luc Mbah a Moute. Grant has an upper-respiratory infection while Mbah a Moute has a sore left shoulder.
Brett Brown watched the final 3 minutes, 56 seconds of Sunday's loss in Cleveland during which neither team could score a point. Still, Brown said he found some good signs from his club.
"I saw some big-time, end-of-game plays," he said. "You saw Nerlens switch out and guard wings and saw him switch out on LeBron [James], and Luc [Mbah a Moute] making a correct play on a roll in that single [last] possession where we then get a stop, call a timeout and have a chance to win it. I think that highlighted how many great defensive plays we had.
"And when you look at us going 1-for-6 from the free-throw line and that wide-open three that I think Ish [Smith] can make more than he's going to miss when [he's] that open. We didn't score but we actually had looks. No regrets on either side. I'm very proud of them playing as hard as they play at this part of the season."
Before the game there was a buzz as Joel Embiid was with the team wearing a warmup suit. Many speculated that he was dressed and might play. Not the case.
Embiid was part of a jersey swap players did with fans. To do that, he had to be properly attired. After that, he got treatment and was back in his civilian clothes for the game.