76ers

Instant Replay: Sixers 102, Hornets 93

Instant Replay: Sixers 102, Hornets 93

BOX SCORE

The Sixers shut down a high-scoring guard, a position in which they’ve struggled to defend, en route to their fifth win in six games on Friday night. 

Kemba Walker shot 7 of 23 from the field and 2 for 9 from three (17 points), as the Sixers beat the Hornets, 102-93, for their third straight victory. The Sixers hadn't won three in a row since they rattled off four straight wins during the 2013-14 season. The Sixers improved to 12-25 while the Hornets evened out at 20-20.

The Sixers’ defense caused problems for Walker from the start, as he shot 2 for 13 in the first half. He had been averaging 23.1 points (sixth among all point guards) on a career-high 46.8 percent from the field. 

In their last five games, of which they won four, the Sixers had allowed 22 points to Emmanuel Mudiay, 28 points to Zach LaVine, a combined 50 to Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas, and 25 to Derrick Rose. 

Inside the box score
• Joel Embiid reached 20 points for his eighth straight game, dating back to Dec. 23 against the Suns. He scored 24 points (6 for 12 from the field, 0 for 5 from three, 12 for 14 from the line) with eight rebounds, three blocks, two steals and five turnovers in 28 minutes against the Hornets.

• Dario Saric was the Sixers’ second-leading scorer with 15 points, including 4 for 6 from three, and grabbed six rebounds.

• Nerlens Noel finished with four blocks in 20 minutes.

• Nicolas Batum led the Hornets with 19 points. 

• Cody Zeller (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (12 points, 12 rebounds) recorded double-doubles. 

• The Sixers forced the Hornets into a season-high 19 turnovers. Charlotte entered the game averaging 11.9 turnovers per game, the lowest mark in the league.

• The Sixers limited the Hornets to 11 assists, the fewest by an opponent this season. The Hornets entered the game averaging 23.5, tied for seventh in the league. 

Embiid wants to hear it
When fans chanted “trust the process” with Embiid at the line, Embiid encouraged them to get louder in between shots. He hit 12 of 14 (85.7 percent) free throws. 

Okafor sits again
Jahlil Okafor was a DNP for his fourth straight game. He will play on Saturday against the Wizards when Embiid rests on the second night of a back-to-back.

“His day is going to be tomorrow,” head coach Brett Brown said. 

In the D-League …
During this game, Richaun Holmes was taking on former Sixer Christian Wood in the Delaware 87ers’ contest against the Greensboro Swarm in North Carolina. Holmes was assigned to the Sevens on Friday morning. 

Part of the team
Ten-day contract player Chasson Randle showed his support for his new teammates by standing and applauding during the game. Randle signed with the Sixers on Tuesday and has not played. 

Up next
The Sixers will travel to Washington, D.C., to play the Wizards on Saturday. On Monday, they will face the Bucks in Milwaukee for an afternoon game. 

NBA stars taking notice of Sixers' rise

NBA stars taking notice of Sixers' rise

The Sixers have been rising steadily in the standings and players around the league are taking notice. 

The young squad improved to 31-25 with a victory over the Bulls Thursday. They have won six straight and have not lost at the Wells Fargo Center in 2018. That totals up to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, only two games behind the Wizards for the fourth spot and two games ahead of the Heat for the eighth. 

"I like them," Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler said at the All-Star break. "They've got a lot of great young talent. We do as well. But I think the way that they're going and how they play so hard and play so together, that's how you win basketball games. They're going to be really, really good for a long time."

The Sixers turned heads with a statement win over the Rockets in only their seventh game of the season. From there, they have defeated playoff teams, including a rare sweep of the Spurs, while struggling against sub.-500 opponents. 

They have 26 games remaining to make a postseason push. Of their upcoming opponents, only 10 games are against current top-eight teams in their conferences. Brett Brown has emphasized they can't take any team lightly. This is the time for the Sixers to maximize their schedule and show they learned from previous letdowns.

"They look good," Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard said. "Obviously as a young team, it takes time to learn how to win. ... The mature, really high-level teams, they find a way to get it done. I think for them, that's what their record shows. You play against them and it's hard to play against them. 

"They're really talented, they play hard, they play for a great coach. It's just those nights where you might not have it, having that understanding and that experience that'll lead you to more wins. I think once they get to that point, that's when maybe nine or 10 games that they've let slip, maybe they win those games."

The Sixers wrapped up the majority of their Western Conference schedule prior to the All-Star break. They have only the Timberwolves, Nuggets and Mavericks left to play. Those in the conference still are keeping an eye on the Sixers' progress, even if they may not face off again for months. 

"Everyone definitely sees the talent there," Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. "Any time you've got Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid to build around, they've got a very bright future. I think everyone had very high expectations, but it's hard to have high expectations with a team that's got a lot of first-, second-year guys that have never been in the playoffs. 

"But you can tell that they're going to be in the playoffs for, shoot, the next decade or so, probably be upper echelon pretty soon."

Leave the NBA playoffs alone

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USA Today Images

Leave the NBA playoffs alone

You can't kill NBA commissioner Adam Silver for trying.

Last week, Silver announced to the media during All-Star weekend in Los Angeles that he's considering a change to the playoffs, where rather than the top eight seeds in each conference competing to determine a conference champ, playoff teams will be seeded 1 through 16.

More recently, ESPN reported that the league is kicking around a "play-in tournament" to determine the final two seeds in each conference.

Let's take these ideas one at a time:

Re-seeding the postseason may sound fun, and even kind of fair, but it completely dissolves conference rivalries that the league has celebrated for decades. Looking for the Warriors and Rockets in the Western Conference Finals? Sorry. Under the new format, there would be no more West Finals. Right now, those are the two best teams in the NBA. So you might see them in the Finals in that format — if they both get that far.

I could understand this argument in years when the disparity in balance of power is egregious. That's not the case this season. If the NBA season ended today, one team would reap the benefits of a 1-16 playoff format: the 9-seed in the West, the Clippers, who are a half-game better than Eastern Conference 8-seed Miami.

(Psst, right now the 5-12 matchup in a 1-16 format would be Sixers-Cavaliers. But let's stay on topic.)

As for the play-in tournament, this completely contradicts the re-seeding idea. The NBA wants the best teams in the playoffs, right? Is a Pistons-Hornets play-in game must-see TV? Or what's left of the Clippers vs. the Jazz?

And how long do you want the postseason to be? Last season, the playoffs lasted nearly nine weeks. It was only that "brief" because the Finals didn't go the full seven games. Adding another round could extend the NBA season into July (unless it corresponds with a shortening of the schedule). We have seen what happens in Olympic years when players don't get enough offseason rest and it ain't pretty.

I'm guessing this is a backhanded way for Silver to keep more teams from tanking for better draft picks. "Hey, you may be 11th in the conference, but you're one 3-game win streak away from a shot at the postseason!!"

I'm all for change, but in the case of the NBA playoffs, commish, I think we're good for now.