PHILADELPHIA — Shortly after his Philadelphia 76ers came away with a 133-122 overtime win over the Los Angeles Lakers, coach Doc Rivers sat in a chair before the press conference and, before he could answer a question, summarized the course of his night together.
“I thought we were going to start about 15 minutes ago,” Rivers said with a smile.
So did virtually everyone else at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night when Joel Embiid shared two free throws to make it 119-110 with 34.8 seconds left in regulation.
From there, however, a comedy of mistakes allowed the Lakers not only to get back in the game, but also a chance to win it in regulation.
The Sixers conceded three turnovers in 21.6 seconds and parted with two free throws to save their opponents.
“I’m just trying to figure out what the hell was going on, honestly,” said Embiid, who had 38 points and 12 rebounds in 46 minutes, when asked what was on his mind during Philadelphia’s fourth-quarter meltdown. “It should never have been in that position. But I’m glad we got another opportunity to do it and we went into overtime and finished it.”
While Philadelphia did its part to give Los Angeles a chance, the Lakers did much to help their own cause, catching a layup from Patrick Beverley, two free throws from Anthony Davis and a 3-pointer from Austin Reaves to pulling inside 120-117 with 10.5 seconds left.
At that point, Reaves was fouled by Matisse Thybulle with a 3-pointer with 9.2 seconds remaining, sending the second year to the free-throw line with a chance to even the score. But after taking the first two free throws, Reaves missed the third. In the ensuing scramble for the ball, he was last touched by LeBron James – giving Philadelphia possession with 5.5 seconds remaining and a chance to finally put the ball successfully in goal.
Instead, Tobias Harris threw an air pass towards Embiid after he couldn’t get the ball anywhere – only for it to hit Embiid in the face and bounce off.
The ball landed in Davis’ hands, who then executed a give-and-go with Russell Westbrook before Harris fouled him with 3.7 seconds remaining.
But with a chance to take the Lakers to 1 – and on the brink of a truly unlikely win as Philadelphia ran out of timeouts – Davis missed the second free throw, giving the 76ers new life and sending the game into overtime instead.
“It sure hurts,” said Davis, who had 31 points — 25 of them after halftime — 12 rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 36 minutes. “Especially if you do the first.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself to take free throws, especially in situations like this. I’m still shocked that I missed it.”
Because as dramatic as the sequence at the end of the game was, overtime ended up being quite disappointing. Rather than continue their descent into madness in the extra session, Philadelphia immediately oriented themselves and beat Los Angeles 13-2 in the extra session, as Westbrook missed more shots alone (0-5) than the 76ers as a team in the Overtime (3v4, plus a perfect 7v7 from the free throw line).
“Honestly, probably just disappointment that I screwed that up [lead] and letting it come so close,” Harris said when asked how he and his teammates got back on track.
“We knew we had to do everything we could to come out of here with a win.”
The bizarre ending-moment collapse overshadowed the game of career guard De’Anthony Melton, who finished with 33 points in 11-for-16 shooting, including 8-for-12 in 3-pointers and seven steals.
“Honestly, my teammates just found me,” Melton said. “Some of those passes, the way they came through, I mean I’m pretty sure they didn’t think they were going to go through. But they kept coming through, they kept finding me and they kept leaving me open, so I kept shooting and with confidence.”
Though the 76ers managed, after a disastrous performance in the closing moments of Monday’s loss in Houston to the lowly Rockets, coupled with their weaknesses late in the event, Rivers said those issues would be resolved going forward.
“All our guards, we all have to get to the ball,” Rivers said. “We have to open up. We have to play through fouls at the end of the game… that can’t happen. We’ll take care of that.”
ESPN’s Dave McMenamin contributed to this report.
https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/35222455/76ers-blow-late-lead-glad-chance-take-lakers-ot 76ers blow late lead, but ‘glad’ for chance to take down Lakers in OT