76ers

Sixers-Hornets 5 things: Nicolas Batum guarantees Charlotte win

Sixers-Hornets 5 things: Nicolas Batum guarantees Charlotte win

The Sixers (20-34) head back on the road to face the Charlotte Hornets (24-30) at the Spectrum Center (7 p.m./CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports app).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup:

1. It's a guarantee
When it comes to sports guarantees, this one is way down the list.

Monday night, when the Sixers and Hornets step on the court, the outcome will have already been decided. At least if you ask Nicolas Batum.

"We're going to win this game on Monday. We will," Batum told the Charlotte Observer.

When asked if he was guaranteeing a victory, Batum followed it up with a simple, "yeah."

That's bold talk from a Hornets team that has dropped nine of its last 10 games to tumble to ninth in the Eastern Conference standings.

2. Streak stoppers
Perhaps it's the Sixers that should be doing the boasting. After all, with Joel Embiid sidelined with a knee injury and Jahlil Okafor held out because of trade talks, the shorthanded squad was still able to take down the NBA's hottest team.

The Sixers had seven players score in double figures on Saturday to notch a 117-109 win over the Miami Heat. The Sixers' victory snapped the Heat's 13-game win streak, the longest in the league this season.

"They’re the hottest team in the NBA,” T.J. McConnell said. “But with the crowd that we have, we expect to win at home. Yeah, there is a surprise to it and it feels really good any time you get a win. To stop that streak feels even better.”

Now the Sixers will try to carry that momentum into Charlotte and capture their first road win in nearly three weeks (Jan. 25 at Milwaukee).

3. Move the ball
One of the main reasons the Sixers were able to knock off the Heat was their ball movement. They racked up 27 assists on 39 made field goals in the win.

That type of sharing has allowed the Sixers to climb among the NBA's elite in assists — they are ninth in the league with 23.5 per game.

The Hornets are actually right behind them at 10th with 23.4 assists a night.

In each of the first two meetings this season, the team that had more assists finished the game on the winning end. The Sixers had a 26-11 assist margin during a 102-93 win on Jan. 13, while the Hornets took the assist battle 25-23 in a 109-93 victory on Nov. 2.

4. Injuries
Okafor did not travel with the Sixers amid trade rumors. Embiid (knee), Ben Simmons (foot) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Cody Zeller (quad) is a game-time decision. Ramon Sessions (knee) is out for the Hornets.

5. This and that
• The Sixers' win in the last matchup between the two teams snapped a six-game skid against the Hornets.

• Dario Saric is averaging 14.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists in February.

• Kemba Walker has averaged 18.8 points, 5.5 assists and 4.4 boards against the Sixers during his career.

Ben Simmons takes 4 families on holiday shopping spree

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Photo courtesy of Sixers' Twitter account

Ben Simmons takes 4 families on holiday shopping spree

Four families gathered in a roped-off waiting area adorned with Sixers decor inside of a Philadelphia Target store. They were told they were getting a surprise Thursday evening, but they didn't know who or what until a car pulled up outside ... and Ben Simmons walked through the door.

Simmons gave each family a $1,000 shopping spree right then and there. The room erupted in cheer.

"Beautiful," a mother exclaimed at the news. One child put his head in his hands in disbelief when he saw Simmons. Another said, "This is the best day ever."

"It's one of those things I always wanted to do growing up," Simmons, who came up with the idea for the shopping trip on his own, said. "It's the perfect time, season of giving. It just means a lot for me to be able to do this for some families."

The towering 6-foot-10 point guard walked through the store on Monument Road with each family and helped them choose their gifts along the way. 

They headed straight to the toy section, where the children piled in Legos, dolls and anything else that grabbed their attention. Then it was on to electronics. One child filled his cart with video games and a gaming system. Another family selected a television and soundbar. 

Shopping carts accumulated quickly as the kids ran in and out of aisles with bright smiles on their faces.

"Seeing them pick out what they want, not having to worry about it, I think that was the biggest thing," Simmons said. "It was a great time. I had a lot of fun, can't wait to do it next year."

The recipients were selected through Unity in the Community, a nonprofit organization based in South Philadelphia. Each had been through tough times in the past year and this trip helped to put the happy in their holidays.

"They can enjoy it now," Simmons said. "It's great for them to have no worries, especially on Christmas."

Best of NBA: LeBron James triple-double lifts Cavaliers over Lakers

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USA Today Images

Best of NBA: LeBron James triple-double lifts Cavaliers over Lakers

CLEVELAND -- LeBron James recorded his 59th career triple-double in front of Lonzo Ball and his brothers, Kevin Love scored 28 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers won for the 16th time in 17 games, 121-112 over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.

James finished with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists to move a tie with Larry Bird for sixth place on the career triple-doubles list. He also put the Lakers away with a dunk and short runner in the final two minutes.

Love scored 13 in the third quarter, when the Cavs opened an 11-point lead on the way to their 10th straight home win. Jose Calderon added a season-high 17 points for Cleveland.

Brandon Ingram scored 26 for the Lakers and Ball had 13 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

It was the first on-court meeting between James and Ball, the Lakers' highly touted rookie whose outspoken father LaVar has brought both attention and animosity toward his son.

LaVar Ball, who did not attend the game, launched his "Big Baller Brand" to promote his three talented sons. James gave them an in-person lesson in the business of basketball (see full recap).

Lee, Knicks top Nets after Porzingis exits
NEW YORK -- Courtney Lee scored 18 of his 27 points in the second half, Michael Beasley added 15, and the New York Knicks held on to beat the Brooklyn Nets 111-104 on Thursday night after losing star forward Kristaps Porzingis to a sore left knee early in the second half.

Porzingis motioned to the bench with 9:25 remaining in the third quarter after contesting a shot made by Brooklyn's Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. The Knicks' leading scorer had scored 13 points in nearly 18 minutes in the first half.

Enes Kanter had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Knicks, who earned just their second road victory of the season. Their only other one was Oct. 29 at Cleveland.

Spencer Dinwiddie had 26 points for the Nets, who have dropped the first two games to their city rivals. Hollis-Jefferson added 25 points on 10-for-16 shooting and Caris LeVert added 15 (see full recap).

Drummond helps Pistons snap 7-game skid
ATLANTA -- Andre Drummond had 12 points, 19 rebounds and a career-high nine assists, Tobias Harris added 19 points and the Detroit Pistons snapped a seven-game slide with a 105-91 victory over the NBA-worst Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night.

Avery Bradley finished with 18 points and Langston Galloway scored 17 as Detroit won for the first time since beating Phoenix on Nov. 29.

Ersan Ilyasova had 23 points, John Collins scored 15 and Dennis Schroder had 10 assists for Atlanta, which dropped to 6-22 and has lost three in a row.

The Pistons never trailed after Galloway's 3-pointer early in the second quarter. They led by 13 at halftime when Galloway hit a 20-footer in the closing seconds and went up by 22 on Reggie Bullock's floater midway through the third.

Detroit recovered from a 103-84 home loss Tuesday to Denver, a performance coach Stan Van Gundy called one of the worst "I've ever had to coach" in over 850 career games (see full recap).