Things to Watch: Sixers versus Hornets
After a blowout win against the Magic on New Year's Eve, the Sixers are back home facing off against the Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets currently sit at 2-3 and are playing on their second game in as many days. Here are three things to keep an eye on in the matchup.
After losing Cody Zeller to injury, Charolette is very light at the center position. Outside of Bismack Biyombo, they don't have many options at center. This gives a clear advantage to Joel Embiid, who has had a great start to the season.
With the Hornets embracing small-ball, all signs point to Embiid adding another monster performance to his resume this season. After having his way with centers like Baynes and Vucevic, he should have no trouble having his way against a smaller lineup.
The Sixers came out of a dry spell from deep against the Magic, shooting just under 50% from beyond. Utilizing Embiid down low early should open the floor for the Sixers' shooters to get clean looks outside.
So far this season no team has had an answer for Joel Embiid down low, and that should remain true in this one.
It is no secret that the Sixers have one of the top playmakers in the league in Ben Simmons, but the Hornets also have a playmaker that is turning heads. Since making his debut, LaMelo Ball has already racked up his fair share of highlight passes.
Ball has made passing contagious in Charolette, as the Hornets enter this game leading the entire NBA in assists per game. Simmons and Ball should put on a passing clinic in this one.
Both teams play at an identical pace, which means this game could turn into a track meet. If both teams spend a lot of time in the open floor, we should get a nice highlight reel from each team's lead playmaker.
Simmons attacking the rim
One thing that has stood out about Simmons' season so far his offensive assertiveness. Although it has only been in spurts, he has done a better job of absorbing contact and getting to the foul line. With the Hornets being light on bigs, Simmons should be going downhill from the opening tip.
Simmons is on pace to have a career year in his free-throw volume. Thursday's game against the Magic was the first time this season that he did not shoot at least six free throws in a game. The Hornets do not have an answer for defensively, he should focus on getting to the rim at will in this matchup.
Along with how Embiid opens up the floor, Simmons can do the same for the perimeter shooters as well. In forcing the defense to collapse on him at the rim, it opens up spots to hit shooters on the outside.
Simmons has done a great job the season filling all areas of the stat sheet, coming close to a triple-double in multiple games. The one thing he hasn't done so far is pull off a big scoring night. Going against a smaller lineup in an up and down game, Simmons should focus on getting downhill and attacking the rim all game.