It was an emotional night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia as the Los Angeles Lakers clashed with the Philadelphia 76ers. Prior to the opening tipoff, the Sixers honored the late Moses Malone, who passed away in September, and announced at halftime that his jersey number would be retired next season.
Also, the Sixers honored Kobe Bryant, who recently announced he would retire following this season, with a video tribute and presented him with his high school jersey framed. Bryant, who grew up in Philadelphia and played at Lower Merion High School before going to the NBA, was emotional when he was announced in the Lakers starting lineup. The news of his homecoming prompted many Lakers fans to flock to the Wells Fargo Center, which a majority of the fans donning purple and gold for the game.
The Lakers were on a roll early in the game, as Bryant was off to a hot start and went 3-for-5 with nine points in the first two minutes. As the Lakers and Sixers were exchanging baskets for the majority for the quarter, the Lakers started to pull away in the closing minutes and went on a 10-0 run to close the quarter with a 33-26 lead.
The second quarter saw a lot more of back and forth action between Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Both the Lakers and Sixers spaced the floor well and found open looks for all of their guys. The Sixers were able to pull themselves out of a rut late in the quarter and kept it close at the half, as the Lakers were up by eight going into the intermission.
The Sixers came out of the gates running in the third quarter, going on an 8-0 run to tie the game at 58 just three minutes into the quarter. The Sixers were also able to knock down their shots from deep, making three consecutive shots to give them a 66-64 lead.
The play became a bit scrappy, as Roy Hibbert got tangled up with Isaiah Canaan. Jerami Grant came in as Hibbert lowered his elbow on him, prompting JaKarr Sampson to push Hibbert and they got a bit physical, prompting in three separate technical fouls to be called (Hibbert, Grant and Sampson).
Both teams got back to basketball and the Sixers started to pull away at the end of the quarter. The Sixers went on a 9-2 run to close out the quarter, which included a three-pointer from Nik Stauskas and two dunks from Nerlens Noel and Grant. The Sixers went into the fourth quarter with an 80-75 lead.
In the Sixers five previous games, they have had leads in the fourth quarter but have blown all of their leads to add to their historic losing streak.
In the fourth quarter, the Sixers were showing a different side of their team. They were knocking down shots, running down the court, blocking shots and making key passes. Grant stepped up in a big way, contributing two points, three assists, two blocks and a steal during the Sixers 14-5 run in the first five minutes of the quarter. Hollis Thompson knocked down a three to extend the Sixers lead to 11 with just two minutes left and the Sixers were playing like they never had before. They held on and won their first game of the season, bringing their 28-game losing streak to an end.
Robert Covington and Jerami Grant played huge roles for the Sixers en route to their first victory of the season. Covington scored 23 points, including five buckets from beyond the arc, to provide the clutch scoring. Grant filled the stat sheet, ending his night with 14 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal and four blocks.
Kobe Bryant still played an important role in his final homecoming, dropping 20 points and had two assists.
The Sixers now move to 1-18 on the season, ending their 0-18 start to the season and avoiding the record breaking 0-19 start. The Sixers also snapped their 28-game losing streak as this young group of guys, including rookie Jahlil Okafor, have been inching close to a win over the last five games before this win.
The Lakers fall to 2-15 on the season as Kobe continues his farewell tour across the country and play the Wizards tomorrow in Washington.