LOS ANGELES — The 76ers ended a day full of uncertainties with an expected victory.
Hours after expecting to be traded, Danny Green scored 28 points to lead the Sixers to a 109-101 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center. This came after the Sixers acquired George Hill in a trade and failed to acquire Kyle Lowry in another proposed one.
In the days leading up to the deadline, sources say Green’s agent told him to expect to be traded.
“It was kind of comical just thinking about it,” Green said when asked about his day. “But I don’t panic. I don’t worry. I don’t stress. I’ve been in this game long enough. I’ve been in this league long enough to know how this business goes. Whatever happens, happens.
“I just make the best of it and let the chips fall where they may.”
But the Sixers improved to 32-13 and have a two-game lead over of the Milwaukee Bucks atop the Eastern Conference standings. It also marked their fourth consecutive win and 10th in 11 games.
It’s no surprise that the Sixers are 3-0 on their six-game road trip. They were expected to defeat the Lakers (28-17), who are without All-Stars LeBron James (sprained right ankle) and Anthony Davis (right calf strain). This was the Los Angeles’ fourth-straight loss.
The Sixers, however, played the final three quarters without any centers due to Dwight Howard being ejected after the first quarter.
Joel Embiid, a league MVP candidate, missed his seventh consecutive game with a left knee bone bruise. Meanwhile, the Sixers traded Tony Bradley to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Vincent Poirier to the New York Knicks in the three-team trade that brought Hill to Philly from the Thunder.
Bradley started the past six games at center in place of Embiid. But on this night, Mike Scott, a power forward, started at center. Point guard Ben Simmons, the Sixers’ “facilitator,” slid over to the center spot at various times of the game. They were joined in the starting lineup by Green, Tobias Harris, and Seth Curry.
Howard and Lakers reserve Montrezl Harrell received double-technicals with 1 minute, 8 seconds left in the first quarter. Harrell shoved Howard away from him while trying to get defensive position for an inbounds play. The two were physical for the rest of the quarter. Howard received his second technical and was ejected for walking into Harrell after the quarter concluded.
“I just thought it was a very selfish play,” Rivers said of Howard’s action that led to the ejection. “You got one tech. You can’t get another. We just have to have better discipline. I get it. I know there’s a lot of emotion. But, we had one center on our team and he got thrown out. So I was not very happy with one.”
The coach stated, again, that he knows it’s an emotional game.
“But he’s a veteran,” Rivers said. “We got to have better discipline.”
Simmons also received a technical foul after Howard was ejected.
Howard finished with six points on 3-for-3 shooting to go with two rebounds, two blocks, and two turnovers in 6:22 of action.
Meanwhile, Green showed the Sixers what they would have been missing if they acquired Lowry from the Toronto Raptors. His game-high points came while making 8-of-12 three-pointers against his former team.
There was a great chance he wouldn’t be a Sixer long before the game. If that would have been the case, it’s unknown when he would have received the 2020 NBA championship ring he won as a Laker last season.
But he and Howard were honored and got their rings before Thursday’s game.
Green, who has won three NBA titles, still hasn’t received the 2019 NBA championship ring he won with the Toronto Raptors. That’s because last season’s scheduled Lakers’ game in Toronto was canceled due to the NBA shutdown. Green was expected to receive his ring before that game.
“It will be two years now,” he said of not receiving that ring. “And now, it was one day. It could have been one day away or a couple of hours away if I was to get traded to getting this one, and I might have had to wait another year.
“If it would have happened, it would have been a very comical, not-so-comical thing. But I’m glad I’m here. I’m glad I got a chance to receive my ring.”
Green is making $15 million in the final year of his contract. The Sixers would have had to use his contract in a package to help match salaries in order to acquire Lowry. Philly, instead, got Hill in a trade that sent Bradley to OKC and Poirier and Terrance Ferguson to New York.
On Thursday, Curry was the team’s second-leading scorer with 19 points on 4-for-8 three-point shooting after missing the previous three games with a sprained left ankle.
Harris had 17 points on 6-for-8 shooting, while Simmons had seven points, 12 assists, and six rebounds.
Shake Milton added 12 points in a reserve role.
Kyle Kuzma paced the Lakers with 25 points and nine rebounds.