The Sixers (36-30) hosted the Charlotte Hornets (17-50) on Saturday. Philadelphia wanted to snap a two-game losing streak. Charlotte wanted to rebound from Friday's loss to the Phoenix Suns. Tyrese Maxey and Kelly Oubre Jr. led the way for the Sixers, who pulled away late for a 109-98 victory.

Before we get to the game, some notes.

Contextual Notes

The Hornets were without the services of LaMelo Ball, who has right ankle tendinopathy.

Seth Curry has a sprained right ankle and was not available. Cody Martin missed the game with a sprained left ankle.

Bryce McGowens has a sprained right knee and was not available. Mark Williams is recovering from a low back injury and was out.

Leaky Black and Marques Bolden are on two-way assignments with Charlotte's G League affiliate and were not available.

Steve Clifford started Vasilije Micic, Tre Mann, Brandon Miller, Miles Bridges, and Nick Richards

The Sixers were without the services of Joel Embiid, who is recovering from a procedure to address a meniscus injury in his left knee. Before the game, Nick Nurse told reporters that Embiid was re-evaluated last week and doctors were pleased with the progress he has made thus far in his recovery. Embiid has done some work on the court, and Nurse remains optimistic about a return this season.

Tobias Harris has a sprained right ankle and was out. De'Anthony Melton remained out with bone stress in his lumbar spine.

As did Robert Covington, who has a bone bruise in his left knee.

Kai Jones is on a G League assignment with the Delaware Blue Coats and was not available. Terq Smith is on a two-way G League assignment and was out.

Nurse started Kyle Lowry, Tyrese Maxey, Kelly Oubre Jr., Nico Batum, and Mo Bamba.


- For all of Oubre's warts, his personality matches the way he plays basketball. He's going to march to the beat of his own drum. Off the court, that means ending media availabilities by saying "Love is love" and wearing some bold outfits. On the court, that means wearing beanies at practice and always playing the game on his terms.

Oubre put on an absolute clinic in off-ball cutting in this game, saving his teammates from crashing into walls on baseline drives by flashing down the middle of the paint looking to catch and explode at the rim. When Charlotte sent two defenders at the ball looking to contain penetration or trap at tight locations, Oubre flashed into view to relieve the pressure. He may go to extreme lengths to use only his left hand, but he'll never go up to the rim without force. The basketball wasn't pretty for either team, but Oubre made sure to cook up a few for the highlight reel.

Oubre's fan equity in Philadelphia has never been higher; his quotes induce adoration from the faithful, and his aggression at the rim induces oohs and aahs from viewers both in the building and at home.

- All due respect to Harris, but you can't ignore the way the offense hums without him in the lineup. Whether the execution - ball security, made shots, etc. - is great varies, but the style of play is night and day. Nurse deployed three-guard lineups for large chunks of the first half - Maxey played 19 minutes, Lowry 15, and Cam Payne 12 - because those groups simply kept the wheels moving. There was a strong balance of downhill play and side-to-side movement, and even a healthy diet of possessions in which the side-to-side movement led to downhill play.

It wasn't just that guys were making meaningful advancements around the floor when the ball was in their hands. The handlers were quick to get off the ball if there wasn't anything there for them to pick at, and their teammates actually moved off the ball to create space or trigger the chain of events for one thing to lead to another.

Not every pass is going to be meaningful - there was one possession in which two Sixers quite literally spent a few seconds passing back and forth to each other between the corner and the wing a la Ronnie Doubleday and Jackie Moon going back and forth on a post entry pass in Semi Pro. Those segments don't actually lead to anything directly, but at least you're testing how the defense shifts with each pass and quickly redirecting the possession if nothing materializes.

Make, miss, or turnover, a lot of what Philadelphia got on offense was better than watching the possession die when the ball lands in Harris' hands.


- A sad day for those who want to see Paul Reed cook whenever he has the ball. He missed a catch-and-shoot three late in the third quarter, got his own rebound on the long miss, and fired up another one from 25 feet to the same result. We'll see if he dares call his own number from three twice in the same possession any time soon.

- As long as Embiid is sidelined and Harris is a shell of himself, it's difficult to think of scenarios in which teams won't throw two guys on Maxey when teammates set ball screens for him. There simply isn't enough proven artillery to consistently burn defenders for leaving them open. It becomes a valuable proposition, and teams will happily play the odds of a random Sixer burning them for five triples if it means shutting off Maxey's water.

Having said that, you're doing him no favors by continuing to have Bamba set picks for him. Teams are treating Bamba - an accurate but low-volume three-point shooter and essentially a non-passer - as a non-entity out of the roll. It's as if you're feeding Maxey a double-team every time he runs the pick-and-roll. It cratered Philadelphia's offense in the Milwaukee loss earlier this week, and it threatened the Sixers in crunch time on Saturday.

He's so fast and increasingly creative as a jump-shooter that you're probably better off just letting him go one-on-one against his own defender. Even if the double comes, he can see it ahead of time and beat it by plugging the open teammate.

The Sixers (37-30) will host the Miami Heat (36-30) on Monday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., Eastern time. You can catch the game on ESPN.

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Gallery Credit: Josh Hennig/Townsquare Media

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