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.

Bradley Beal helps Wizards pull even with Pacers

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Bradley Beal helps Wizards pull even with Pacers

WASHINGTON — Bradley Beal scored 19 points, Marcin Gortat had 18 and the Washington Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers 109-102 on Saturday night in a possible playoff preview.

Washington (40-30) earned its second straight win to move into a tie with Indiana for fourth in the Eastern Conference standings. The Wizards also claimed the first tiebreaker by taking two of three in the season series.

Gortat was 6 for 8 from the field and also grabbed eight rebounds. He scored a total of 17 points in his previous four games.

Washington went 10 for 20 from 3-point range and shot 54.8 percent from the field overall. Kelly Oubre, Jr. had 16 points for the Wizards, and Markieff Morris added 15 (see full recap).

Giannis' double-double helps Bucks hold on to beat Hawks
MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 33 points and 12 rebounds, Khris Middleton added 23 points and the Milwaukee Bucks held on for a 122-117 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.

The Bucks finished off the Eastern Conference's worst team with a game-ending 11-5 run, pushing the pace after the Hawks lost ball-handler Dennis Schroder. The guard fouled out with 2:46 left, and was called for a technical foul after exchanging words with an official on the way to the sideline.

Middleton hit the free throw that started the run. The Hawks looked rushed on their next two possessions with a turnover and a blocked shot, allowing the Bucks to brush past them.

Trailing by 13 at one point, Atlanta put up a spirited fight before losing its 50th game of the year. Taurean Prince scored 38 points, while Schroder finished with 18 (see full recap).

LeBron gets 33 points in triple-double as Cavs beat Bulls
CHICAGO — LeBron James scored 33 points as part of a triple-double, Jordan Clarkson had a tiebreaking four-point play with 1:27 left and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Chicago Bulls 114-109 on Saturday night.

James had 12 rebounds and 12 assists for his 15th triple-double of the season, and Jeff Green added 21 points. Clarkson finished with 19 points to help the Cavaliers salvage a six-game split on their season-high six-game trip.

Denzel Valentine led Chicago with a career-high 34 points, hitting 8 of 11 from long range. The Bulls wiped out a 17-point halftime deficit even though they held out banged-up core players Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, only to come up short in the closing minutes.

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue spent the second half in the locker room with an illness, another hit for an already short-handed team (see full recap).

Justin Anderson has his number called — and delivers

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Justin Anderson has his number called — and delivers

One responsibility of professional athletes is being ready when your number is called.

Seems like a simple concept. However, not everyone can handle the duties of coming into a game cold and making an impact.

The Sixers' Justin Anderson prides himself on being able to thrive in just that type of situation. That's why when Brett Brown told him to be on alert prior to Friday's 120-116 win over the Nets, he was good to go.

"He came up to me before the game, maybe like 20 minutes before the game, and said he was going to go to me tonight," Anderson said. "I told him I was going to be ready. He went to me and we all played well."

Oh, Anderson was definitely ready. The third-year swingman entered at the 6:55 mark of the first quarter and made a trio of three-pointers to keep the sluggish Sixers afloat early on.

“I had hit the first one, and they were talking a little trash. They didn’t respect it, so they continued to go under [screens],” Anderson said. “I was always taught if they go under, raise up and shoot it. That’s what you practice for. I just wanted to make sure I took good shots, played hard, brung energy and I think we did a good of doing that.”

Wait, so guys on the 21-48 Nets squad had the nerve to talk a little smack? While a bit laughable, it didn’t help in knocking Anderson off his game.

“It just showed me that they weren’t disciplined in their scouting report and I tried to take advantage of it,” he said. “It’s not like I’m shooting 20s [percent] from the three. It was what it was and I just wanted to take advantage of my opportunity.”

Anderson finished with 11 points on 4 of 7 shooting from the field and 3 of 5 from three-point range along with two rebounds in 14 minutes. Even with that offensive production, it was his defensive prowess in the final minute that made the biggest impact on the night.

“We had the confidence to both give Richaun (Holmes) some minutes and Justin when it mattered and had a big stop,” Brown said. “I think it was against (Spencer) Dinwiddie. You know, moved his feet, guarded the yard as we call it.

That’s major trust in a player who missed 23 games earlier in the season with shin splints and eight more recently with an ankle sprain. But with the playoffs right around the corner, Brown knows he may need to go to Anderson again in an even more crucial moment.

“Good for him. He’s a wonderful teammate, he’s good people and he’s had sort of an erratic year with injury,” Brown said. “I thought tonight he confirmed what we all think in relation to him being able to help us.”