Sixers Start Fast, Finish Sloppy, defeat Charlotte 127-112
A tradition like no other, the Philadelphia 76ers host the Charlotte Hornets multiple times early in an NBA season. Charlotte began a two-game miniseries starting Saturday night in Philadelphia. The two teams will meet Monday night again. The Hornets entered Philadelphia carrying a 2-3 record. Philadelphia was fresh off a blowout win in Orlando on New Year's Eve.
Charlotte is lead by two ex Celtics in Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward. In addition to those two, the Hornets are excited about rookie Lamelo Ball and third-year guard Devonte Graham. Graham has been off to an abysmal start to the season after a breakout season a year ago in which he scored 18.2 points per game and forced his way into the starting lineup. This season, Graham is shooting just 27% from the field and 30% from three.
Ball, the brother of Lonzo, was the second pick in November's NBA draft. He has been coming off the bench so far forCharlotte. His combination of 6'7" size and court vision and passing touch was an intriguing combination for a Hornets team that has lacked size on the perimeter in recent years. Entering Saturday., Ball was averaging 11.2 points and 4 assists in 20 minutes per contest.
Speaking of size, the Hornets started 6'8" Bismack Biyombo at the center position. This significant disadvantage made it tough to slow down Joel Embiid, who has played like an MVP thus far. Embiid entered Saturday night, averaging 26.5 points and 12.3 per outing. The Sixers were a perfect 4 and 0 in games Embiid has played.
Ben Simmons, who leads the team in hockey assists, per Doc Rivers, is just one game removed from a dominant performance in Orlando where he added his first triple of the season en-route to an easy victory. Rivers said blowout wins like Thursday night are "old school load management" He said that when he was a player and wanted rest, coaches would say, "go get a big lead, and you can go sit down," Rivers joked.
On Saturday night, The Hornets were hoping for a hot start on the second night of a back to back. Charlotte has increased pace this season and hoped to run the larger 76ers team out of the gym early. Instead, the 76ers got great looks early as they sprinted out to an 18-8 lead less than 5 minutes into the first quarter. The 76ers mostly got whatever shot they wanted as they lead after 1 by 15 points, 39-24.
The second quarter featured the 76ers backups, with Tyrese Maxey pouring in 5 points, including his first career three-pointer. Shake Milton added 6 points as the bench maintained a lead for Simmons and Embiid, who re-entered the game and punished the smaller Hornets inside while opening wide-open looks from three.
Hornets were led by Lamelo Ball and Terry Rozier, who broke into double figures in the first half. Danny Green had his best half of the season, pouring in 11 points, including 3-5 from three. Green joined Embiid, Harris, and Seth Curry in double figures. Harris led the team in scoring at the half, with 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists. The 76ers shot 54.5% from deep for the first half and led at halftime 73-58.
The Second half began in a frenzy of open court play, with multiple turnovers on both ends. After turning the ball over just 6 times in the first half, the 76ers committed 9 turnovers in the 3rd quarter. The Hornets cut the lead to as few as 10 points and began to slowly close the gap in rebounding. Terry exploded in the third quarter, going 3-3 from deep and finishing the quarter with 29 points, But the sixers slowly regained composure and took back control.
After a Shake Milton drive, as the shot clock expired, the 76ers carried a 14 point lead into the 4th quarter 104-90.
Tobias Harris, who is thriving recently for the 76ers was the only Sixers starter on the floor for the first 3-minute shift of the final quarter. Harris reached 20 points for the third straight game as the 76ers struggled to maintain a double-digit lead against the younger, faster Hornets early in the final stanza.
The rest of the starters began to enter the game with just under 9 minutes to play. Matisse Thybulle, who had struggled early in the season to find minutes, played significant minutes Saturday well into the decisive fourth quarter. Thybulle scored just 3 points but was a defensive presence for the team in a 15-minute run.
With 7 minutes to play, the Sixers starting unit re-took the floor seeking to calm emotions and punish the Hornets for their gambling pressure. The turnover problems seemed to manifest as a result of the Charlotte pressure, pushing the 76ers into overpassing, scrambling and generally sloppy play. With 6:41 remaining, Embiid has assessed a technical foul for a hostile act while flailing his arms while being held down under the basket. Gordon Hayward brought the Hornets within 10 again with a technical free throw before the 76ers jumped back to a 14 point lead after two finishes at the rim by Ben Simmons. Despite a heroic effort by Terry Rozier and 14 second-half turnovers, the 76ers still outpaced the Hornets somehow in the second half.
In the end, the pressure and pace of the Hornets could not overcome their poor shooting performance. The Hornets shot just 42% from the floor. Simmons finished with a triple-double. When they weren't turning the ball over, the Sixers as a whole shot nearly 60% from the floor. They were also carried by a hot shooting night from three, going 16/35 from deep. The final score was 127-112.