Sixers top Hornets for first 3-game win streak since 2013-14 season

Sixers top Hornets for first 3-game win streak since 2013-14 season


Joel Embiid wasn’t fond of the connotation. It was impossible to avoid public perception — it lasted for three years — but it never sat well with Embiid. 

He is confident a three-game winning streak and victories in five out of the last six contests will alter that. 

“My job here, I’ve been trying to change the culture,” Embiid said after the Sixers’ 102-93 win over the Hornets on Friday (see Instant Replay). “I think people are starting to see that we’re winning games. The way people view the Sixers —​ hopefully that changes.” 

The Sixers have improved to 12-25 and won three straight for the first time since the 2013-14 season. Embiid was drafted that summer and his experiences with the team had been of losing streaks. The Sixers were 28-136 in his first two seasons while he was sidelined by foot injuries.

“The word associated with the Sixers was basically tanking,” Embiid said. “I don’t think anybody was trying to do that. The roster just wasn’t good enough. But everybody was playing hard and we weren’t winning games. So I’m trying to get people together.

“I’m not the only one. My teammates, they’re helping me. We’re winning games now, so got to give them a lot of credit. Now the way I see it, now people got to get away from that word and see that, yeah, the Sixers now, they’re winning and thinking about playoffs.” 

Friday’s win over the Hornets was the first against a team currently in playoff position during the recent stretch. The Nuggets, Timberwolves, Nets and Knicks are below .500, while the Hornets entered the game 20-19. Even so, Embiid wasn’t shaken by the opponent’s record. 

“We’ve been playing well lately,” he said. “Going into [the] game [against] Charlotte, I didn’t know we were going to win but I was confident.”

The big man played with confidence, too. He scored 24 points on 6 of 12 shooting to give him eight straight games of at least 20 points. Embiid also added eight rebounds in the victory.

Still, his biggest impact may have been on the defensive end. Embiid blocked three shots and had two steals as the Sixers forced the Hornets — the NBA’s best team in terms of taking care of the ball — into a season-high 19 turnovers.

Hornets head coach Steve Clifford recognized the impact Embiid has had on the Sixers in his first game against the rookie. Embiid sat out of their matchup in November for rest.

“He definitely has the whole package,” Clifford said. “He has the size, agility. He is quick, he is strong and has a wide body. He has a skill level. He has brought in the energy to his teammates, which has obviously changed them with the way they are playing. He certainly has the talent to be a big-time player.”

For Embiid, changing the attitude around the team has meant building a close relationship with the fans. He is tightly connected with the Sixers faithful, and during Friday's game, he prompted the fans to get louder as they chanted "trust the process" while he shot free throws. 

"I love the fans and I think they love me, so they’ve been showing me a lot of love," he said. "At the beginning of the season, I was playing with a lot of passion and getting into it with the fans. At some point, that changed and I wasn’t playing with that much passion, I wasn’t getting into it with the fans. Then I just went back to it and it’s all fun again, the game is fun, we're winning games."

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.”

Allen Iverson gives Sixers all he has from crowd in comeback

Allen Iverson gives Sixers all he has from crowd in comeback


Allen Iverson intently watched the Sixers pull out a 120-116 win over the Nets Friday standing on the court of the Wells Fargo Center (see observations)

After the buzzer sounded, he gave an impromptu postgame press conference as he walked through the room where Brett Brown addresses the media. 

“I’m very familiar with this right here,” Iverson said, laying his hand on the podium. 

When the topic of his desire to get in the game and still play came up, the 42-year-old Hall of Famer replied, “I always want to help, but I’m too old to help. I can’t help no more … I can’t play no more. “The Answer” has gone to heaven and Allen Iverson is still here.” 

Iverson was very much a part of the game from the sidelines. He stood during the final stretch in the fourth quarter, enthusiastically reacted to calls, and high-fived fans as the Sixers closed out the victory in the final seconds. 

“It’s awesome,” Ben Simmons said. “He wants us to win. He’s behind us. He can obviously see we have a lot of potential, which is awesome coming from him.” 

Iverson made a request about the Sixers, who at 38-30 are chasing a return to the playoffs and possibly home-court advantage. 

“Treat my ‘little dudes,’” Iverson said with air quotes, referencing how he described the players in an interview last week, “treat them right and give them a chance.”

The Sixers noticed Iverson's encouragement. 

“I saw him, I saw the support,” Joel Embiid said. “I like it. Like he said, we are his little dudes. I appreciate the support.”