Lou Williams Outduels Kobe for Rousing Sixers Victory

Lou Williams Outduels Kobe for Rousing Sixers Victory

When the Phillies would win a wild game the past few seasons, often times I would come home late after covering the game from Citizens Bank Park and flip on Comcast to watch a bit of the 2:00 am replay to see what that one nasty Cliff Lee hook looked like on television or to hear what Wheels had to say about Hunter Pence's goofiness or what the crowd sounded like after an acrobatic J-Roll snag deep up the middle.

I had never done that for a Sixers game. Until they beat Kobe Bryant and the Lakers on Monday night, 95-90, at the Wells Fargo Center. This Sixers team has me wondering how Marc Zumoff and Malik Rose would call the big Lou bucket like I'd wonder how Franzke and L.A. called a Chase Utley inside-the-parker.

Yes, I watched the Sixers beat the Lakers twice last night. The first time in person. The second time on the late-night television replay.

This team has become that fun. [plenty of video highlights below]

There were a couple of fascinating aspects to Monday's win that were worth a second look. First, there was Kobe's insane first half in which he was making ridiculous shot after ridiculous shot. It wasn't like the Sixers were playing awful D on him, but it didn't matter.

Kobe was hitting shots from the parking lot.

Doug Collins told his players as much at the half. "Kobe was incredible in that first half. They had five threes and he had four of them. Three of them were off-the-charts tough and I said, ‘We’re not going to overreact to that.'"

And they didn't. They stayed within their game, but put a bit of added pressure on Kobe in the second half and used team defense and forced the other Lakers to beat them. Metta World Peace, Matt Barnes, and Jason Kapono were not up to the task.

Kobe surpassed his former teammate, Shaq, to move into the fifth spot on the NBA's All-Time scoring leaders list. Once he passed Shaq midway through the second quarter, however, Kobe went ice cold, hitting only two other field goals the rest of the game.

One of them was a fricking sick bucket though, reminiscent of a certain Dr.'s up-and-under reverse layup against a certain L.A. team. Compare the two layups here.

Then there was the absolutely ridiculous rebounding differential. The Lakers had 55 boards to the Sixers 30.

Yet, the Sixers still found a way to win.

"I don’t know if I’ve ever won a game where I’ve gotten out rebounded by 25,” Collins said. "But they just keep playing."

And you know what allowed the Sixers to stay in the game despite such an insane differential on the boards? They committed only four turnovers as a team the entire game. There have been games this season were Andre Iguodala alone committed turnovers on the first four possessions of the game (*not entirely true, but almost).

That's some amazing ball care. The four turnovers tied a franchise low. On a whole this season, the Sixers have taken very good care of the ball. But on Monday night they were simply fantastic.

[RELATED: Video: White-bearded kneeling Sixers fan taunts Kobe Bryant]

And finally, Lou Williams.

Sitting by the coaches podium in the media room amid a pool of reporters waiting for Coach Collins to address them following the win, Sixers CEO Adam Aron shared his thoughts to no writer in particular, "I've got your story for you in two words, 'Lou. Williams.'"

His idea may not sell many newspapers but his sentiment certainly rang true.

Lou. Williams. Went. Off. And it was one of the most exciting displays we've seen from any Sixers player in years.

Did it help that LouWill's red-hot fourth quarter came against Kobe Bryant after one of the best to ever play the game lit it up just a few short quarters earlier? Absolutely it added to the electric atmosphere.

Fans at the Wells Fargo Center were on their feet for the final few minutes thanks to LouWill awaking them. The "Beat L.A.!" chants were goosebump inducing. Even Doug Collins said it brought him back.

"To hear the fans out there chanting 'Beat LA!' it took me back to 1980 when I was a player. That's pretty nice to hear," Coach Collins said of the crowd.

Kobe went off early, LouWill went off late.

"I wouldn’t put my name in the conversation with Kobe, but tonight I made shots," Lou said with a smile after the game.

There were plenty of smiles to go around in South Philly last night.

*

Watch Lou Williams impressive run in the fourth quarter:

Lou was feeling the luv after the game:

Sixers merchandise sales on the rise along with win total

Sixers merchandise sales on the rise along with win total

Between recent wins and Joel Embiid’s All-Star push, fans are buying their Sixers gear.

According to Fanatics.com, a sports apparel website partnered with the four major sports, the Sixers rank fourth among all NBA teams in total merchandise sales over the past seven days. The Warriors, Cavaliers and Bulls are ahead of them.

Joel Embiid was the fifth-best selling player over that period. His popularity has risen during his enthusiastic All-Star campaign, which included celebrity shoutouts and an outpour of social media activity. Embiid is now up to 553,000 Twitter followers.

The Sixers have ranked in the league’s top 10 of merchandise sales since the beginning of the 2016-17 season. They hold the largest year-over-year increase during that time frame in the NBA this season.

In September, Ben Simmons ranked in the top 10 of NBA players in merchandise sales since draft night.

Sales from the Sixers' and NBA's official online stores are included in these statistics.

Sixers clicking just in time to face surging Raptors on Wednesday

Sixers clicking just in time to face surging Raptors on Wednesday

The Sixers are clicking just in time to face their toughest competition in over a month. The Raptors (28-13) come to Philadelphia as the Sixers have won six of their last eight games by holding one another accountable and taking each outing step-by-step.

“You feel like the group is coming together,” Brett Brown said. “You feel like all the work that we have put in is starting to pay dividends in relation to a solid foundation.”

The Raptors sit second in the Eastern Conference, just one and a half games behind the Cavaliers. The last time they met, the Raptors beat the Sixers 123-114 on Dec. 14 at the Wells Fargo Center.

A lot has changed since then, especially the rotations. Brown started Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor together against the Raptors, an experiment that waned out after six games. The Sixers have found a formula to winning with an established starting lineup and a consistent second unit, with the added experience of Gerald Henderson and Nerlens Noel. They will be tested Wednesday as both Joel Embiid (illness) and T.J. McConnell (wrist) are questionable.

“When you look at this team, it’s a lot of talent but we didn’t play as a team,” Ilyasova said of the start of the season. “Now we come together. I think it’s all about the chemistry, we trust each other.”

The Sixers are looking to carry over the momentum of a 113-104 victory over the Bucks in Milwaukee on Monday. They got a test of All-Star caliber talent against Giannis Antetokounmpo, whom they held to two points in the second half. The Sixers will have their hands full with the backcourt duo of Kyle Lowry (22.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 7.2 assists) and DeMar DeRozan (28.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists).

One key to countering talent like that placing an importance on accountability. The players are not letting each other off the hook for mistakes on the court, regardless of who the opponent is.

“I could see it over the past couple weeks, guys coming out here and being more vocal on both ends of the court,” Noel said. “If one guy messes up, you’ve got to let him know so it won’t be a recurring thing. With that, guys are taking steps in the right direction, both leadership roles because everybody on this team can be a leader in their own way.”

The Raptors come in on a four-game winning streak.