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To say the Philadelphia 76ers were shorthanded at center on Thursday night against the Los Angeles Lakers is an understatement. Heading into the matchup, the Sixers knew there was zero chance of Joel Embiid playing since he's back in Philly rehabbing his bruised knee.

Lately, with Embiid out of the mix, the Sixers have started Tony Bradley, who has been doing a solid job of developing in his role. However, Bradley was a key piece that moved the needle in a three-way trade between the Sixers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the New York Knicks on Thursday before the deadline.

While Bradley was the focal point of the trade that landed the Sixers veteran point guard George Hill, he wasn't the only center involved. The Sixers also dished out veteran center Vincent Poirier, leaving Philly with just one healthy center on Thursday night in Dwight Howard.

As expected, Howard didn't get the start. Since Sixers head coach Doc Rivers prefers the veteran comes off the bench with the second unit, the 76ers went small to start the game by having Mike Scott play the five spot.

Still, the Sixers needed Dwight Howard more than anybody on Thursday night as he was the only true center on the roster. Unfortunately, the future Hall of Famer let his team down for the first time this year as he had an early exit, which he could've prevented.

After the first quarter wrapped up, Howard intentionally walked into Lakers big man Montrezl Harrell after the two got scrappy on the court moments before. Although Harrell retaliated to Howard's antics several times, the officiating crew decided the Sixers big man had to go. So, Howard was ejected after clocking in for six minutes and 22 seconds on Thursday night.

“I just thought it was very selfish play,” said Sixers head coach Doc Rivers after the game. "You got one tech. You can’t get another one. We just have to have better discipline.” Howard is known for being Philly's agitator this season, so Rivers is used to the antics. However, Howard might've taken it a step too far against his old team.

“I know there’s a lot of emotion, but we had one center on our team, and he got thrown out,” Rivers continued. “I was not very happy with that one. I know it’s an emotional game, but he’s a veteran. We got to have better discipline.”

Fortunately, the Sixers did a serviceable job with Scott and the two-way rookie Paul Reed as they came out on top with a 109-101 win over the Lakers. The game didn't go the way the Sixers wanted, but a win is a win, and they can't complain. Rivers might've been unhappy on Thursday, but Howard can get back in his good graces on Saturday with a solid outing against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_ & Instagram: @JGrassoNBA.