kemba walker

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, 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.

Sixers-Hornets 5 things: Relying on Jahlil Okafor vs. Charlotte's big men

Sixers-Hornets 5 things: Relying on Jahlil Okafor vs. Charlotte's big men

The Sixers (0-3) close out their first back-to-back set of the season with their road opener against the Charlotte Hornets (2-1) on Wednesday night (7 p.m./CSN).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup.

1. Closing up shop
One thing about consistently having a young team is consistently having to learn tough lessons. That's been the case each season for the Sixers under Brett Brown in regards to closing out games, and Tuesday was no different.

The Sixers managed only 14 points in the fourth quarter of a 103-101 loss to the Orlando Magic. That included zero field goals in the last 3:56 and two Joel Embiid turnovers in the final 36.6 seconds as they blew a once-18-point lead.

“It’s really tough,” Embiid said of the loss. "Next time we’ve got to come out of halftime, we’ve got to be ready. … Next time when we have a lead like that we’ve just got to be ready to play and compete.”

That's now two double-digit leads blown in the Sixers' three losses this season. Certainly not a trend they'd like to see continue.

2. Jahlil's turn
Brown opted to split up his centers for the back-to-back. That means Embiid will get the night off in Charlotte and Jahlil Okafor will take his place after sitting out against the Magic.

Okafor is still working his way back from a torn meniscus suffered last season. He's looked fluid in his movements on the court, averaging 8.0 points and 3.5 rebounds in 15.5 minutes a night. However, the big man's shot has been rusty (35.3 percent).

Even on a minutes restriction, Okafor will need to give the Sixers quality minutes down low against a big Hornets frontline that features healthy seven-footers Frank Kaminsky and Cody Zeller.

3. Keep an eye on Kemba
The battle of the bigs will definitely be an important factor to Wednesday's meeting, but let's be honest: The game will likely come down to how well the Sixers can contain Kemba Walker.

The point guard has gotten off to a strong start in his sixth season. He has averaged 23.3 points and 5.0 assists to open the 2016-17 campaign. Walker has also been wreaking havoc in the passing lanes on defense with 2.3 steals per contest.

Those numbers are just about on par with what Walker put up against the Sixers last season as the Hornets swept the four-game series.

The Sixers better hope Sergio Rodriguez and T.J. McConnell got a good night's rest.

4. Injuries
Embiid (rest) did not make the trip with the Sixers. Ben Simmons (foot), Nerlens Noel (knee) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are also out.

Former Sixer Christian Wood (illness) is a game-time decision. Roy Hibbert (knee) and Jeremy Lamb (hamstring) are out for the Hornets.

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

• The Sixers are shooting just 25.6 percent from three-point range to start the seas.

• The Hornets are first in the NBA in blocks per game with 8.3, while the Sixers are second with 7.7.