“If I could do it over again, I’d shoot the same shot,” Williams said. “I didn’t know how much time I had, if I’d have known I had three or four seconds, I would have turned and tried to get my shoulders squared up. We got a couple of shots at the basket — it bounced out.”
The Sixers, without swingman Andre Iguodala, dropped to 13-20. The Lakers, led by Kobe Bryant with 33 points, improved to 23-10.
Before the game, the Sixers said that Iguodala would miss at least five games with right Achilles tendinitis; he is not scheduled for any on-court activity until Jan. 10.
Without Iguodala, the Sixers were remarkably resilient, coming from a 14-point deficit in the second half to tie the score, 98-98, with less than 90 seconds remaining.
Jrue Holiday finished with 19 points, and Williams scored 18.
The Sixers’ task from the start was daunting. Compete with the Lakers in their sold-out arena and match the reigning NBA champions basket for basket during one of the most electric nights of the year: New Year’s Eve.
In the first half, the Sixers managed to keep the Lakers within arm’s reach, but getting any closer seemed too tall of an order.
Although none of the numbers, not shooting percentage or field-goal defense, pointed toward a close game, the Sixers weren’t out of the running when the teams jogged to their respective locker rooms.
After two quarters, the Lakers were shooting 51.2 percent from the floor and 40 percent from beyond the arc. Bryant and reserve forward Lamar Odom had combined for 24 first-half points on 9-for-15 shooting from the field.
By comparison, the Sixers were shooting 42.9 percent from the floor, struggling to find a way to get the ball through the hoop. Their lone savior in the first half was Holiday, who on successive second-quarter possessions finished three-point plays to keep the Sixers within striking distance.
In the first half, Holiday had 13 points on 5-for-10 shooting, with three assists. Without Iguodala, there was no dominant offensive or defensive presence. Holiday’s aggressive to-the-hoop attitude was the pacemaker for the Sixers. Rookie Evan Turner backed up his 23-point performance against Phoenix on Wednesday night with a strong first half against the Lakers — he finished with 12 points — and Williams knocked down three first-half shots to give the Sixers a fighting chance coming out of the locker room.
“We’re growing up,” Sixers coach Doug Collins said. “We’ve been on this long trip, and I told our guys they should be looking forward to the new year because we have a lot of things to be thankful for.”
Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at 856-779-3844 or firstname.lastname@example.org