PHILADELPHIA — The 76ers are in a funk.
All they face in their next game is the NBA’s hottest team.
Philadelphia (13-11) has lost two straight game and three of its last four. The 76ers begin a three-game road trip in Cleveland against Lebron James and the Cavaliers at 8 p.m. Saturday (NBC Sports Philadelphia). The Cavaliers (18-7) began Friday with 13 straight victories — the NBA’s longest current winning streak.
“We have to pick it up,” 76ers rookie standout Ben Simmons said. “Personally, I love playing away. But we have to pick it up. It’s going to be a lot harder, especially playing the Cavs. They’re a tough team, but we can do it.”
The 76ers’ latest defeat came Thursday night before a national television audience. Brandon Ingram caught a pass from Lorenzo Ball and sank a 3-pointer with 0.8 seconds left to give the Los Angeles Lakers a 107-104 victory.
The game illustrated the 76ers’ recent troubles. It also provided Philadelphia with a view of the road not taken.
The 76ers lead the league in turnovers with an average of 16.9 per game. They committed 18 against the Lakers. Los Angeles converted those miscues into 25 points.
“I think it’s just us (being) lazy,” Simmons said. “I think it’s just more mental mistakes for us.”
Philadelphia also allowed the Lakers to grab 15 offensive rebounds. The Phoenix Suns grabbed the same number in a 115-101 win over the 76ers on Monday.
“They were killers,” coach Brett Brown said of the offensive rebounds after Thursday’s loss.
The 76ers also struggled defensively against the Suns and Lakers. Phoenix guard Devin Booker scored 46 points. Brown criticized the 76ers’ defensive effort against the Lakers.
“I think that we were just playing conservative,” he said. “We were trying to play fundamentally correct and conservative and keep the game in front of us, and a lot of times that isn’t always the answer. You walk that tight rope of, ‘Well, you lead the NBA in fouls,’ yet you want to play with a sting and so sometimes they contradict each other.”
The Lakers game was particularly entertaining for 76ers fans because it featured two players who could have played for Philadelphia.
The sold-out Wells Fargo Center crowd lustily booed Lakers rookie guard Lonzo Ball every time he touched the ball. Ball’s controversial father, LaVar, stood up in a luxury suite in the fourth quarter, cupped his hand to his ear and urged the crowd to boo louder.
Lonzo finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Ball drove the baseline and found Ingram open on the perimeter for the winning shot. The 6-foot-6 Ball looks bigger and faster in person than he does on television.
The Lakers selected Ball with the second pick in the June draft. Philadelphia picked Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 pick, but he has not played since Oct. 23 because of a shoulder injury. The 76ers said before Thursday’s game that Fultz’s shoulder is no longer sore, but there is yet no timetable for his return.
“He has an elite NBA skill,” Brown said of Ball’s ability to pass. “People will run for him and with him because they will get rewarded.”
Ingram scored 21 points for the Lakers. The Lakers took him with the No. 2 pick in the 2016. The 76ers selected Simmons No. 1 that year.
“He has a game that almost reminds you of a young (Kevin) Durant,” Brown said of Ingram. “He’s that long. He’s got the skill package where he can dribble and pass. His motor and his ability to play downhill is the thing that has stood out most for me.”
Despite his praise for the young Laker standouts, Brown has a lot to be pleased about with his roster. Joel Embiid scored 33 points and blocked five shots Thursday, while Simmons recorded the third triple-double of his young career with 12 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists.
The play of Embiid and Simmons is a big reason why four of Philadelphia’s next 10 games will be on national television.
The 76ers’ current swoon probably is nothing more than a young team’s growing pains. Philadelphia won 10 of 13 games between Oct. 28 and Nov. 25.
“I think we can get back to where we were,” Simmons said. “We’re still learning.”