Sixers sweep ‘series’ vs. Hornets with decisive win
The Sixers swept their first “series” of the 2020-21 season after a decisive 118-101 win over the Hornets Monday night.
It was a well-rounded offensive effort and another dominant defensive outing as the Sixers improved their record to an NBA-best 6-1 overall and 4-0 at the Wells Fargo Center.
On Wednesday, the Sixers will host the Wizards in a rematch of the season opener. Washington has won two straight since losing their first five games of the season.
Here are a few takeaways from Monday night’s victory.
Starters run and hide
Ben Simmons was even more aggressive than usual early, pushing the tempo and getting to the rim. While Simmons (12 points, 10 rebounds, six assists) didn’t connect at an efficient clip at the start, it got Charlotte playing back on its heels a bit.
The Hornets made a run with their small-ball lineup and took a 36-31 lead. From there, a lineup comprised of mostly starters led the Sixers on a 27-7 run to end the quarter.
Joel Embiid (14 points, 11 rebounds in 25 minutes) took advantage of Charlotte’s small-lineup and Tobias Harris, fresh off being named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, continued to play a decisive and aggressive brand of basketball. Harris scored a game-high 22 points.
A great sign for the starting unit is that Danny Green appears to be rounding into form. Following a 13-point performance where he went 3 of 6 from three Saturday, Green scored 13 again on Monday, going 3 of 8 from three.
Seth Curry added 11 as all five starters reached double figures. The ball movement and chemistry continue to grow with this group. As the schedule gets tougher, it should offer a few intriguing tests.
Bully ball defense?
The phrase “bully ball” might make Sixers fans cringe, but that’s how the Sixers played Monday, holding Charlotte to just 41.9 percent from the field. It was clear the Sixers’ size posed problems for the Hornets, likely a big part of the reason head coach James Borrego went to a lineup without a center.
The small-ball lineup was effective at times against the bench unit with Dwight Howard but stood no chance against Embiid. Simmons’ defense yet again stood out.
While any conversation about a “big three” with Embiid, Simmons and Harris normally focuses on offense, Harris has been noticeable on defense. While he’s not likely to ever be on the level of Embiid and Simmons, two potential Defensive Player of the Year candidates, Harris’ improvement on that end is obvious. It also makes the Sixers more versatile and difficult to game plan against.
As a team, the Sixers appear to be communicating better and trusting each other more than in years past.
A bench boost
While the starters handled the Hornets throughout the game, the bench didn’t have a strong first half. It’s worth noting that both Furkan Korkmaz and Mike Scott were out again, but the Sixers could use more from Shake Milton.
Milton, who shot just 1 of 6 from three and 3 of 11 overall Monday, had an outstanding preseason and was excellent in the season opener, but he’s since struggled. He hasn’t shot the ball well from the outside and it seems to be causing him to struggle with other parts of his game. Milton has been a strong finisher with both hands at the NBA level and flashed some added burst.
Recently, he’s sort of looked hesitant, not like the ultra-confident player we heard about in camp and saw early on in games. Milton is a key part of the Sixers and they need him to fill that sixth man role at a high level.
Overall, the bench looked a little out of sync in the first half. In the second, with Harris joining the bench unit, they looked much more cohesive and dangerous. Imagine if I told you a couple of weeks ago that Harris would like the most confident player on Earth while Milton was scuffling? That’s life in the NBA.
Rookie Tyrese Maxey (11 points) continues to earn rotational minutes thanks to his strong on-ball play.
A promising trend
After the Sixers' embarrassing effort in Cleveland, there may have been concern that old habits from the Brett Brown regime were continuing. It's still extremely early, but the Sixers have bounced back from that effort against the Cavs.
They won a game in Orlando, something that's felt like a rarity over the years. Then they returned home and took care of business with two professional wins against an inferior Charlotte team.
It's still VERY early, but it's promising. How would Brown's Sixers of last year have fared in a "series" situation against weaker competition?