76ers

Sixers 105, Hornets 103: Joel Embiid comes up big again

Sixers 105, Hornets 103: Joel Embiid comes up big again

BOX SCORE 

Saturday night wasn’t a game the Sixers needed to win — those sort of games don’t really exist in October. But a third straight loss would’ve added to the worries about the new defensive concepts, Markelle Fultz, Brett Brown’s rotation and much more.

Those questions don’t just disappear after a 105-103 win over the Hornets that moves the Sixers to 3-3, but they certainly would’ve been more unpleasant to answer after another loss. 

• Joel Embiid’s status was in question after he rolled an ankle at practice Friday, but he was his usual dominant self in the low post.

The statistics he's putting up on a nightly basis are incredible. With 27 points and 14 rebounds, Embiid became the first player in franchise history with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in each game over the first six games of a season. Embiid was three points shy of posting at least 30 points and 10 points in five straight games.

Embiid did settle for a couple long-range jumpers late in the fourth quarter, an early-season trend, but it's hard to be too critical of another stellar performance. 

• Ben Simmons couldn’t get anything to fall around the rim. Simmons shot 5 for 20, and many of those attempts were shots he usually makes inside. His shooting struggles are a big reason why this game was so close.

• Robert Covington’s defense hasn’t been consistent at the start of the season, but Saturday night was a return to form. Deflections; steals (2); blocks (4); solid on-ball defense on the opposition’s best player (Kemba Walker scored 37 points, but on 11 for 31 shooting, and most of his success come against defenders besides Covington) — a typical Covington performance.

His 18 points (4 for 7 from three-point range) were also second-most for the Sixers on the night, and his three-pointer with just under two minutes remaining was a huge shot.

• It’s nice to see the Sixers continue to set ball screens for Markelle Fultz, but Fultz hasn’t been making the most of those opportunities. His default Saturday night on 1-5 ball screens with Embiid was to look to dish it back to Embiid around the three-point line. That occasionally leads to an open long range shot for Embiid, but Fultz attacking the rim is a better option. 

 Embiid also poses a much greater threat when he rolls instead of pops. Fultz made a nice play early in the second quarter when Embiid did roll to the basket, probing the defense and finding Embiid inside for a layup. 

• Fultz continues to look much more comfortable in transition than in the half court. He showed off the spin move he loves on the fast break in the second quarter.

And he went coast-to-coast with authority early in the fourth quarter.

Fultz posted 10 points (4 for 9 from the floor) and four assists in 25 minutes.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

Glenn Robinson III on his role with the Sixers: ‘I don’t really understand it’

Glenn Robinson III on his role with the Sixers: ‘I don’t really understand it’

Glenn Robinson III was having by far the best season of his NBA career, starting for the Warriors, averaging 12.9 points per game and shooting 40 percent from three-point range.

Then he was traded to the Sixers.

Since being acquired by the Sixers along with Alec Burks, Robinson has started two games, come off the bench in four and missed all nine of his three-point attempts.

In an interview with Basketball Insiders’ Spencer Davies, he did not sound pleased with his situation.

Even when (Golden State) played Philly, I showed them what I could do,” Robinson told Davies. “So to play those consistent minutes a night and perform well … that’s the most disappointing part about coming here is that — both of us (are) coming off career years where we’re looking at hopefully big numbers after the season. I know I’ve got a family to feed. So you think about all those things.

“All those things play a role, and then when you come here and your role’s not really explained or you don’t know what’s going on with the trade — it’s not like it was a trade where you come in and immediately have an impact. It’s a little different, so … this team is full of wings, full of guys who can play. So really, I don’t really understand it. But it’s a business, you’ve got to make it happen and go out and try to do your best every night.

Though the Sixers have actually gone 4-2 with Robinson, the team has been in a state of constant change since acquiring him and Burks. Since Robinson has joined, the Sixers have used five different starting lineups. They’ll have to use a sixth Thursday night vs. the Knicks with Joel Embiid out because of a left shoulder sprain. Ben Simmons will be re-evaluated in approximately two weeks with nerve impingement in his lower back. 

Robinson had a promising first game after the trade, scoring 10 points on 5 for 6 shooting against the Bulls and moving sharply off the ball, but it’s certainly true that Brett Brown has yet to find a clear role for him.

Last Friday, Robinson talked about the adjustment of moving in the middle of the season. 

“It’s always different,” he said. “You come into a new team and there’s new plays, new personnel. I think that they’ve came it pretty simple when both AB and I have been on the court. Like I said, it’s always different and you kind of learn on the fly and adjust. But teammates have been great, kind of telling us where to be and what to do during the games.”

The 26-year-old is in his second stint with Brown and the Sixers after playing 10 games in Philadelphia his rookie season. 

He still expressed some optimism to Davies that the team can turn the season around. 

“A lot of talent. I think we can go as far as we stick together and want to go,” Robinson told Davies. “We’ve just got a lot of great players and they know how to play the game. That’s the biggest thing, so as long as we can stick together, come together … it’s about defense for this group. We’ve got all the talent in the world to score. I think that we’ve got high chances.”

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

This stat shows just how brutal the Sixers have been on the road

This stat shows just how brutal the Sixers have been on the road

It doesn’t take heavy analysis to see that the Sixers are in serious trouble. They’re fifth in the Eastern Conference and both their All-Stars are dealing with injuries

The biggest conundrum with this team is its home and road splits. The Sixers have the best home record in the NBA at 27-2 but fell to 9-21 on the road after a brutal loss to the Cavs Wednesday. 

It was their seventh straight loss on the road and ensured that they will go through the month of February winless away from Wells Fargo Center.

Seems unprecedented, right? Like nobody has ever been this dominant at home and so putrid on the road? Well, that’s because the Sixers are making weird, not-so-great history.

As of now, the Sixers are on pace to be the only team in NBA history to win at least 90 percent of their home games and lose two-thirds of their road games, per Basketball Reference

At 9-21, the Sixers have the same road record as their opponent Thursday, the New York Knicks. Yes, the New York Knicks. The 20-38 Charlotte Hornets have a better road record (11-20).

Brett Brown and it seems like every single player on the team has been asked about the road issues. Nobody has been able to give a concrete answer. Then again, if they had one, this might be figured out.

As it stands, the Sixers are underperforming, and their road woes are the biggest culprit. It won’t get much easier with a four-game West Coast slate that starts Sunday against the Los Angeles Clippers and with Ben Simmons and possibly Joel Embiid still on the shelf.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers