Sixers-Hornets 5 things: Sixers go for 5th win in 6 games

Sixers-Hornets 5 things: Sixers go for 5th win in 6 games

The Sixers (11-25) open up a back-to-back set against the Charlotte Hornets (20-19) at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night (7 p.m./CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports app).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Rolling into a tough stretch
When is the last time you could realistically say the Sixers were on a roll?

Yeah, it's been quite a while. However, that's exactly what is going on with the young team right now.

T.J. McConnell hit the jump shot heard 'round the world at the buzzer on Wednesday to give the Sixers a 98-97 win over the New York Knicks. It marked the squad's 11th victory to surpass last season's total and its fourth in the last five games.

That's more than enough reason for the Sixers to celebrate after the historic struggles they have gone through over the past few years. But with four straight games against Eastern Conference foes with records above .500 on tap, they are trying to remain even keel.

“You wake up and you’re like, ‘Damn, that was a great win last night,’” Nerlens Noel said (see story). “But obviously there’s a lot more work to do. It’s a long season. This is a great stretch for us, but you want to stay away from the bad ones.”

2. Watch out for the swarm
Oh, the bad ones. Like shooting 39.5 percent from the field and committing 19 turnovers during a 16-point loss?

That's what happened the first time the Sixers faced the Hornets this season way back on Nov. 2. The Sixers allowed Charlotte to score 39 points in the third quarter and six players to reach double-digit points in that loss, their fourth straight to open the season.

The two teams couldn't have been on more different tracks at that time. For the Sixers, Joel Embiid was sitting out the second half of a back-to-back set for rest as they were still figuring out their rotation. Meanwhile, Charlotte was building off last season's success on its way to a 6-1 mark to open the 2016-17 campaign.

Now, it's the Sixers on the upswing and going for a third straight win for the first time since 2014, while the Hornets are losers of five of six.

3. Keep an eye on Kemba
No matter how improved the Sixers are, they still can't afford to let Kemba Walker get going.

The guard is 16th in the NBA in scoring with 23.1 points per night and can catch fire in the blink of an eye.

Walker had 22 points, seven assists and four rebounds in the season's first matchup.

McConnell may be riding the wave of his big shot on offense a couple of nights ago, but it will be his defense on Walker that likely determines the outcome on Friday.

4. Injuries
Embiid (ankle) is probable. Ben Simmons (foot) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Jeremy Lamb (foot) is out for the Hornets.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost six straight to the Hornets.

• The Hornets have the lowest turnover rate in the NBA with 11.9 per game.

• Richaun Holmes was assigned to the Delaware 87ers and is expected to be in uniform for their game tonight against the Greensboro Swarm.

• Ersan Ilyasova's first game with the Sixers was against the Hornets earlier this season. He tied a team-high with 14 points to go along with three rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes off the bench.

Banged-up Fultz is latest chapter in Sixers' painful rookie history

Banged-up Fultz is latest chapter in Sixers' painful rookie history

CAMDEN, N.J. — Brett Brown has been here before. The scenario isn’t as drastic in the past, but it’s familiar nonetheless: starting the season with an injured rookie for the fifth straight year.

Markelle Fultz will begin his first NBA season dealing with ongoing right shoulder and right knee soreness. The No. 1 pick is expected to play on opening night Wednesday, but will come off the bench after appearing in only two preseason games. 

Brown has learned to manage this type of situation after years of experience. Nerlens Noel missed Brown’s entire first season because of an ACL injury. Joel Embiid sat out the following two seasons with foot injuries. Ben Simmons suffered a season-ending foot fracture in last year’s training camp. 

The biggest lesson? 

“To go slow,” Brown said. “To not put them in a position where it’s going to produce some difficult times.” 

Fultz was likely to be a starter when the Sixers traded up to draft him first overall in June. The 19-year-old guard hasn’t had that much experience since then thanks to injuries in both summer league and preseason. 

The Sixers face John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry in the first three games alone. That would be a tall defensive task if Fultz were to start. 

“This league is driven by men, this league is driven by veterans,” Brown said. “To just put him in that environment is just, I think, poor coaching and I’m not doing it.”

Just as Simmons took advice from Embiid during his injury, he is offering words of wisdom to Fultz.

“[You’ve] got to to take your time and you definitely have to take care of your body,” Simmons said. “Put your body first. There’s no need to rush.”

The Sixers have the backcourt depth to adjust without Fultz in the starting lineup. They have been turning to veteran Jerryd Bayless at shooting guard alongside Simmons, their intended backcourt pairing last season. 

In the meantime, Brown will balance Fultz’s health, his growth as an NBA player, and the team’s success. 

“The end game needs to be developing Markelle Fultz," Brown said. 

Joel Embiid disappointed Brett Brown has him on another minutes limit

Joel Embiid disappointed Brett Brown has him on another minutes limit

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid would like to play 48 minutes every game. The Sixers are looking at a maximum of 20 for opening night.

"I don't really know if there's a solid number," Brett Brown said Monday after practice. "I can tell if you were to choose a number, it's somewhere in the teens."

Embiid was hoping for more playing time on Wednesday against the Wizards, his first regular-season game since Jan. 27 (left knee surgery).

"I didn't know about that, but that's very disappointing," Embiid said Monday of the minutes restriction. "I feel great and hopefully that changes based on today's practice and tomorrow's practice."

The Sixers are being cautious with Embiid, who has both a lengthy history of injuries and a massive new contract extension. He clocked 15 minutes in both of his preseason games last week. Embiid felt he could have played twice as many minutes.

While the Sixers aren't ready to go as high as 30 minutes yet, they could exercise some wiggle room based on the flow of the game.

"There will be some minutes restrictions, but it's also a judgment of how is the game being played, not just looking at rote, rigid number," Brown said.

The NBA's new timeout rules could impact Embiid's playing time. The updated format changes include a decrease in the maximum number of timeouts allowed (18 to 14), 75-second team timeouts and fewer timeouts in the final minutes of the game. 

"One of the things that we're doing this year unlike previous years is there's a little bit of a looseness in relation to it doesn't have to be rigid if the game didn't dictate some track meet," Brown said. "This is like I'm coaching in the London Olympic Games again. The game moves. I can have guys at a scorers table for two minutes with no stoppage. So sometimes the torrid pace of a game doesn't favor Jo where you go flying up and down."

In addition to individual games, it remains to be seen if Embiid will be cleared this season for back-to-backs. The Sixers face their first set of consecutive games this Friday and Saturday against the Celtics at home and the Raptors in Toronto.