Joel Embiid is a towering figure at 7-feet, 250 pounds and played like it last Sunday at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center.
Facing the Lakers, who were coming off a 129-128 triumph over the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on point guard Rajon Rondo’s last-second 20-footer, Embiid’s team-best 37 points and game-high 14 rebounds helped push the 76ers past the Lakers 143-120.
“We can do it,’’ said Embiid, who played a season at the University of Kansas of winning the Eastern Conference title. “But we have to play defense.’’
‘…we have to play defense.’—Joel Embiid
Embiid connected on 12 of 16 shot attempts, drilled two of three from three-point range and made 11 of 12 free throws.
Power forward Kyle Kuzma did his best to keep the Lakers in contention by scoring 27 of his game-best 39 points at the half.
The Lakers (28-28) jetted ahead 40-39 entering the second period as Kuzma (14 of 21 and five of eight on three-pointers) dropped in 23 points, the biggest scoring quarter of his career.
The Lakers (48 of 93 from the field for 51.6 percent) bulled ahead 22-18 with 6:23 showing after Kuzma canned two free throws.
Philadelphia (57.7 percent on 56 of 97) shaved the margin to 27-26 with 4:11 remaining on a layup from power forward Tobias Harris.
The 76ers (36-20) outscored the Lakers 37-27 in the second frame as Embiid, a center, tallied 25 points and snared eight caroms.
Harris (six assists and six rebounds), recently traded by the Clippers to the 76ers, delivered 14 of his 22 points at the intermission.
Kuzma (three rebounds) wasn’t as productive in the second period, tallying four points as the Lakers fell behind 76-67 at the break.
When point guard T.J. McConnell (13 points) made a 21-footer with 9:55 left before the half, Philadelphia slipped ahead 47-42.
A layup by point guard Brandon Ingram (19 points) with 6:31 left in the second period saw the Lakers get within 55-53.
The Lakers drew within 81-75 and 9:21 left in the third quarter on a layup by center JaVale McGee (21 points with a team-high 13 boards) on a pass from small forward LeBron James.
James, who missed 17 consecutive games and 18 overall, finished with 18 points and a game-best nine assists with 10 rebounds.
With James, a three-time NBA champion and a 15-time All-Star in the lineup, the Lakers are 22-16.
Philadelphia took a 109-94 edge on a trey from shooting guard J.J. Redick (21 points with five assists) into the fourth quarter as Embiid had 35 points.
The 76ers led 134-112 with 3:19 left in the fourth period on Ridick’s 20-foot jumper.
Rick Assad has written about sports for the Pasadena Star-News and Los Angeles Times. Contact him at email@example.com.