Embiid, Harris bail out tired Sixers in win over Hornets: Likes and dislikes
The Sixers (27-13) visited the Charlotte Hornets (9-30) on Saturday. Philadelphia wanted to win its fifth game in a row. Charlotte wanted to build on Friday's victory over the San Antonio Spurs. Joel Embiid bailed the Sixers out of a horrific night of shooting to outlast the Hornets, 97-89.
Before we get to the game, some notes.
The Sixers were without the services of De'Anthony Melton, who is receiving treatment for a stress response to lumbar spine soreness.
Patrick Beverley missed the game due to an illness.
Robert Covington has left knee inflammation and was not available. Jaden Springer missed the game with right ankle tendinitis. Mo Bamba has right knee inflammation and was out.
Kenny Lofton Jr. is on a two-way G League assignment with the Delaware Blue Coats and was not available.
Nick Nurse started Tyrese Maxey, Kelly Oubre Jr., Nico Batum, Tobias Harris, and Embiid.
The Hornets were without the services of LaMelo Ball, who has a sore right ankle.
Gordon Hayward missed the game with a strained left calf. Mark Williams is recovering from a low back injury and was not available.
Nick Richards has a sprained right ankle and was out.
Amari Bailey is on a two-way assignment with Charlotte's G League affiliate and was not available.
Steve Clifford started Terry Rozier, Brandon Miller, Cody Martin, Miles Bridges, and PJ Washington.
- Without a traditional big man available, an already putrid Charlotte team felt the pressure on both ends. Embiid certainly applied himself against the comically under-sized Hornets, but he more or less turned off Charlotte's halfcourt offense with some rotations to the rim early in the first quarter.
It often only takes a few plays at the hoop to get in the opposition's heads. Embiid emerged from the middle of the paint to swat a Bridges floater and then, two minutes later, erased a Washington dunk. Those efforts were enough to get Charlotte thinking. Rozier tried to angle a high layup in anticipation of an Embiid contest and drew only iron. Martin veered out of a drive and settled for a fading two just outside of floater range.
The big guy did his usual damage on the offensive end, but he made sure Charlotte felt his presence on defense in the first quarter.
- Not one of Maxey's better halves by any stretch, but he's generally figured out how to turn it into his own personal show when tasked with carrying Embiid-less lineups. He diced the Hornets up with strong drives, dusting his original defender and then navigating helpers to get to the rim. He kept shooting even when the threes weren't falling, eventually lacing one to punish a miscommunication by the Charlotte defense. He scored 10 points in the second quarter before Embiid returned from his usual rest.
- Even though his teammates couldn't hit the water if they fell out of a boat in this game, Embiid made a noticeable effort to spread the wealth around the floor in the second half. He didn't just make the obvious pass one rotation away, either. He walked the Hornets out of position, shifting their defense ever so slightly before roping passes across the floor to open teammates. If the angle was such that he couldn't shift the defense, Embiid waited until his teammates had windows to the ball before aiming the rock just high and far enough to make it over purple jerseys in the way.
If we're being totally honest, fatigue probably aided in him electing to pass. He can't do it all by himself on the second of a back-to-back. But, it's a lot easier for role players to stay loose when they know the best player on the team will believe in them at times when they may not believe in themselves.
- Of all the Maxey developments this season, one of the most underrated is his comfort with finishing on the way down. Unlocking that is paramount to being a crafty scorer at the rim. Since Maxey's emergence two years ago, he's largely rested on his ability to blow by anyone in his way. But, as defenses have begun to scheme more for him, his paths to the rim have grown increasingly complicated. Lately, he's added an extra level of craft against defenses at the rim, changing his angle while suspended in the air and kissing the ball off the glass on the way down. Not only is he drawing more fouls, but his highlight reel has expanded quite a bit over the last week.
- Another fourth-quarter showing for Harris, his second in the last week. The Sixers looked like they were in some danger as the third quarter came to a close, suddenly trailing by four with Embiid slated to hit the bench. Harris' dose of bully ball resumed the Sixers' lead by the time the big fella returned.
- Danuel House Jr. is one of the more fascinating role players I've ever seen. He can drive you absolutely insane in the halfcourt offense, liable to force a step-back long two at a bad time. Those decisions, and his questionable shooting, are probably why he isn't part of the regular rotation. But, boy, is he an incredible agent of chaos in transition. Not even in a bad way, either. He sprinted back into the play and timed his swat perfectly to blow up a Hornets transition opportunity and finished through traffic on the run. His halfcourt defense was instrumental to the Sixers closing out the game, sticking to the ball and selling contact on screens to draw a handful (yes, multiple) of offensive fouls on inexperienced Hornets.
- Was surprised to see all of the short misses from Philadelphia after so many starters got significant rest in the fourth quarter of Friday's win in Orlando. But, even bad shooting doesn't excuse some of the general ugliness of the Sixers' offense in the first half of this game. Philadelphia was not ready for some of the pressure the Hornets applied early, nor were the Sixers very interested in competing on hustle plays. Charlotte is much younger than Philadelphia, but the Hornets are also on the second night of a back-to-back and more than 20 games below .500. Resting on your talent advantage is bad habit basketball.
- Speaking of Charlotte's talent deficit, the defensive rebounding issues didn't really hurt the Sixers in the first half because the Hornets can't make shots to save their lives. But, finishing possessions with defensive rebounds is already a sore spot for the Sixers. On a back-to-back, it was the first thing to go for the white jerseys.
The Sixers (28-13) will host the San Antonio Spurs (7-34) on Monday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m., Eastern time. You can catch the action on NBA TV.