LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Lakers are in unfamiliar territory in these parts. Despite a lineup that features more than a sprinkling of potential Hall of Famers, the Lakers are no longer the team in Tinseltown. That distinction for the moment belongs to their arena mates, the Clippers, who lost in Denver Tuesday for the first time in 18 games.
The Staples Center usually has a very good buzz whenever the Lakers play. Maybe it was because it was the first day of the New Year or due to the absence of Jack Nicholson, but the arena was eerily quiet just about the whole game. The 76ers made sure it stayed that way as they grounded out a methodical, 103-99 win in front of the listless sellout crowd.
The Sixers have had bad spells early in games recently, a big part of the reason they had lost eight of their previous 10 games. Tuesday's first half was different, though, as the Sixers hung with the much bigger Lakers on the boards, moved the ball very well and forged a 54-50 lead. They kept the pedal down, didn't get rattled when the Lakers made a bit of a run late in the fourth quarter and earned an impressive win in the middle of the season's longest road trip.
Evan Turner, who has been struggling with his offense lately, broke out with 22 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. His biggest basket came when the Lakers had cut the lead to 89-85 late in the fourth and appeared to be on the verge of a game-swinging run. But Turner drained a corner three and then assisted on a Spencer Hawes jumper to restore a sense of ease. He was active all over the floor, getting to loose balls and fighting for rebounds in the paint.
Jrue Holiday was spectacular with 26 points and 10 assists in his hometown, while Hawes added 13 points, Thaddeus Young 12 and Dorell Wright and Lavoy Allen 10 each. It was an all-around team effort. When Allen got three fouls in the first half, Kwame Brown came off the bench and grabbed six rebounds in 9 minutes.
"It was awesome,'' Holiday said. "I couldn't start off the new year any better. We came out and played hard and played together. That was big coming off two losses. We hit big shots. We were smart about our play today.''
Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 36 points but got little help on the offensive end as Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace combined to shoot just 9-for-36. The Lakers were also hurt by the fact that they made just three of 22 three-pointers and missed 11 of their 33 free throws.
"They can really score the ball, even before they got Pau Gasol and Steve Nash back," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "They've got Nash now directing their team and their turnovers will keep coming down because the ball is in his hands so much. I think it takes a lot of pressure off of Kobe as far as having to create a lot of things.
"Dwight is playing much better. You can see that he's getting his bounce back and Gasol is blending with this group. I think they are trying to create a bench with [World Peace] and Jodie [Meeks] and some other things to have some pop off their bench. They're going to get better and better as the season goes on. They are a team that can score a ton of points quickly."
The Sixers, though, limited that from happening most of the night in improving their record to 15-17. The Lakers fell to 15-16.
"I think if you could erase a couple of segments [recently] - we were tied 30-all in Golden State [in the second quarter] and then were down 57-42 at the half, and we started the fourth quarter the other night in Portland and it's a three-point game and then we get down 10," Collins said. "It's just we haven't had any consistency, we really haven't. That's the thing that's really haunted us. Every night I'm trying to get the right group of guys out there at the right particular time and we just haven't been able to get that consistent mix."
Tuesday brought a consistent effort, on both ends of the floor.
Asked about the progress of Andrew Bynum before the game, Sixers general manager Tony DiLeo said there really is no update and that Bynum is progressing from his knee issues.
Asked if Bynum was past the first of the six stages of progress toward recovery, DiLeo said yes but was very vague as to what that means. There probably will be an update when the team returns from its road trip next week.