In the wake of the Los Angele Lakers losing 115-109 to the Philadelphia 76ers, Lakers coach Luke Walton sat at the post game podium deep in the bowels of Staples Center.
"He's a problem," Walton said, referring to Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, who had just put on a career performance in front of the stars sitting courtside and the millions watching the nationally televised game at home.
Embiid scored 46 points, which was a new career-high, pulled down 15 rebounds, handed off seven assists and tabbed seven blocks in 34 and a half breathtaking minutes on the court.
While the talk entering the night may have been about rookies Ben Simmons and Lonzo Ball, Embiid's dominating performance overshadowed everything and everyone else. Simmons ended the night with 18 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds and five steals, nearly notching a triple-double. Normally, that stat line would have earned the no. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft the headlines. On this night, though, Embiid owned the court and the evening.
Along with Simmons, Embiid's special night also drafted career nights for Lakers forwards Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. Both starts scored career highs. Ingram finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds in the defeat on 11-18 shooting from the field, while Kuzma scored 24 points and pulled down seven rebounds in only 31 minutes on the court.
Ball, though, struggled mightily in front of a national audience yet again. The 20-year-old rookie point guard missed eight of his nine shots and all six of his attempts from three-point land.
"He was having an off night," Walton said about Ball after the game.
Walton added, "He's 20 years old, and he plays the toughest position in the NBA. Ten-year All-Stars have off nights, so of course, our young players are going to have off nights."
Normally, Ball tends to contribute in other areas when his shot isn't falling, but this night, his shot seemed to affect the other parts of his game, and Walton opted to go with Jordan Clarkson to finish the first half and, later, to finish the game.
"Usually, I won't let it affect me," Ball said about his poor shooting after the game. "But tonight, I did. I missed layups, just had a bad night."
Immediately, Ball added that the quick turnaround and a game on Friday offered an opportunity to bounce back and leave this game as a distant memory in the rear view.
With the defeat, the Lakers dropped to 6-9 on the season, while the 76ers improved to 8-6. If Embiid can stay healthy and Simmons can continue to excel at point forward, the Sixers should be a playoff team and a tough out in the postseason.
Next, the Lakers host the Phoenix Suns on Friday night. The Lakers have beaten the Suns in both meetings this season, but Friday will be the first time Phoenix plays the Lakers in LA.
Notes: The Lakers, who are one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the NBA, made 22 of 27 foul shots. Also, the Lakers only turned the ball over nine times to Philadelphia's 16 turnovers. Neither team shot especially well from three-point land, as the Lakers made 3-27, while the Sixers hit 7-32 from three-point land.