Charlotte Hornets

Sixers return home with win over Hornets

Sixers return home with win over Hornets

BOX SCORE

Well, it wasn’t always pretty, but the Sixers broke their three-game losing streak in their return home.

They took care of business, beating the Hornets, 114-106, at the Wells Fargo Center Sunday night.

If you take away a horrendous second quarter, the Sixers outplayed Charlotte just about the entire night to improve their record to 6-3 on the young season.

They did so without All-Star point guard Ben Simmons (AC joint sprain), who missed his second straight game.

Here are observations from the win.

• The Sixers started this one off like they were going to roll. They had assists on 11 of their first 13 baskets. They were making threes. They were using their size to disrupt Charlotte’s offense.

Then in the second quarter, they fell apart. They were outscored 34-20 in large part because of turnovers and undisciplined defense. It elicited boos from the crowd. After being up by as many as 14, they trailed 58-53 going into the half. When the Hornets went to a zone late in the second, the Sixers didn’t have an answer.

The Sixers restored order in the third thanks in large part to the play of Al Horford and a much better defensive effort.

Embiid looks like Embiid ...

After two rough outings in Utah and Denver, Joel Embiid was much more active Sunday. Brown said pregame that Embiid didn’t look like himself during the road trip and that one of his biggest disappointments was Embiid not rolling hard to the basket. There was a noticeable difference in the way he was rolling against the Hornets.

Charlotte likely switched to a zone because Embiid was having his way on the block. He had 15 points (5 of 7 shooting) in 15 first-half minutes.

He handled double teams better than he had in the last two contests. He committed just two turnovers and had three assists — including a beauty of a cross-court pass for a Josh Richardson corner three to start the second half. Embiid finished with 18 points (6 of 10), nine rebounds, two blocks and two steals in 25 minutes.

... and Horford looks like Horford

Lost in Embiid struggling out West was Horford looking a little tired as well. The 33-year-old looked rejuvenated back on his home floor. 

He was much more active on both ends and took advantage of rookie first-rounder P.J. Washington, repeatedly playing bully ball in the post.

He looked awfully spry on this beautiful spin move and reverse layup for an and-one.

He had 15 points (7 of 9), seven rebounds and five assists.

A viable bench?

Both point guards continue to play well in the absence of Simmons. Raul Neto’s pick-and-roll defense has been a pleasant surprise — though he had a few tough moments in the second quarter — and he continues to shoot the basketball at a high rate.

While the Sixers do lose something defensively with him in the game, Trey Burke has also acquitted himself pretty darn well. Known more as an isolation player, Burke has done well running the offense and has hit his open looks for the most part. 

Furkan Korkmaz continues to shoot the ball with confidence. In addition to hitting threes (3 of 8, 17 points), he also made a pair of really nice floaters. This doesn’t even look like the same guy that we saw last season — or even early in this season, for that matter.

Brown admitted that he wished he’d given Kyle O’Quinn second-half minutes against the Nuggets after he was so effective in the first half. With Embiid and Horford healthy, O’Quinn still got time Sunday. It didn’t look like that would be the case to start the season, but O’Quinn has played well and Brown has expanded his rotation to get the veteran big minutes.

Don’t look now, but the Sixers actually appear to have some depth.

Looking like the real J-Rich

Richardson was quietly solid Sunday night. He hit his most threes on the season (3 of 6) and stuffed the stat sheet with 11 points, seven rebounds, six assists and and a steal. He continues to be the Sixers’ most consistent defender. Perhaps not having to handle backup point guard duties has lightened the load for Richardson a bit. This is more of the player we saw in Miami.

Tobias Harris also a solid night with 14 points (6 of 9), seven rebounds and five assists.

 

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Sixers vs. Hornets: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Sixers vs. Hornets: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

The Sixers didn't have a losing streak longer than three games for the entire 2018-19 season. They'll try to move to 6-3 and stop their current skid from bleeding to four games Sunday night against the 4-5 Charlotte Hornets.

Here are the essentials:

When: 6 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 5:30 p.m.
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch:

Bouncing back from a brutal quarter 

How bad was the Sixers' fourth quarter against the Nuggets? Their 13 points were the team's fewest in any quarter since April 8, 2017. Of course, Denver also scored 35.

The NBA did rule in its Last Two Minute Report that the offensive foul called on the Sixers' final possession should have been a defensive foul on Nikola Jokic instead. That error might make the loss sting a bit more, but the Sixers made a string of mistakes to put themselves in that spot where a missed call could decide the game. 

A win over the Hornets would help push those bitter moments to the side.

Another game without Simmons 

Ben Simmons and Shake Milton are out of Sunday's game, Simmons with a Grade 1 AC joint sprain in his right shoulder sustained Wednesday in Utah, Milton with a bone bruise and mild left knee sprain suffered Oct. 28 in Atlanta. Both players will be re-evaluated Monday and are progressing well, a team spokesperson told NBC Sports Philadelphia. For Simmons, this will be the first time in three seasons that he's missed consecutive games. Without giving it much thought, we'd been able to pencil him into the Sixers' starting lineup the last two years.

Raul Neto started Friday against the Nuggets, scoring 13 points on 5 for 6 shooting and six assists in 30 minutes, and Trey Burke made his Sixers debut, posting five points and three assists in 17 minutes. Those two figure to feature again tonight.

About those turnovers ... 

The Hornets lead the NBA in turnovers per game (18.6), and the Sixers are close behind at 18.5. Charlotte can chalk some of that up to young players taking on major minutes. While the Sixers have the excuse of integrating a few new faces into the rotation, plenty of their recent turnovers have fallen under the careless category — uncontested passes thrown out of bounds, poor entries into the post, leaps into the air on baseline drives without an outlet.

Joel Embiid had eight of the team's 17 turnovers vs. the Nuggets. Some of them were a product of his troubles dealing with double teams, but his fatigue also seemed to play a role.

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The backup plan for Joel Embiid looks pretty darn good as Sixers beat Hornets in preseason action

The backup plan for Joel Embiid looks pretty darn good as Sixers beat Hornets in preseason action

No Joel Embiid, no problem.

Without their All-Star center, the Sixers took it to Charlotte Friday night, beating the Hornets, 100-87, at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The score wasn't even that close as the Sixers' held a 20-plus-point lead through most of the game with their regular rotation in.

With Embiid getting a planned load management day off, the rest of the starters carried the load while Matisse Thybulle continued to shine on the defensive end.

Here are observations from the win.

• Brett Brown has talked about wanting his team to be swarming defensively and more aggressive than years past. You can already see the potential of that approach with the elite athletes and defensive players the team features. The Sixers turned the Hornets over nine times in the first quarter, scoring 14 points off them.

Brown said he wants to be the No. 1 defensive team in the NBA. That seems quite attainable.

• While Horford is just a very good player in his own right, a big part of his appeal to the Sixers was how he could fill the void when Embiid is out of the lineup. We got a glimpse of that Friday.

Horford hit a shot that’s become an Embiid staple on the team’s first possession — a long jumper from the top of the key in the trail position. Unfortunately, it wound up being a long two but Horford stroked it with ease. He also showed he still has ups at 33 years old. He forced a turnover by breaking up a pick-and-roll and then threw down an alley-oop from Simmons on the ensuing fast break. Horford filled up the stat sheet with 11 points (5 of 9), nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks.

The other part of that backup center equation is veteran Kyle O’Quinn. O’Quinn was solid defensively and had a nice on-ball block of Cody Zeller in the second. O’Quinn’s passing ability has been brought up on several occasions and you can see why. He finished with five assists — his nicest was a well-executed give-and-go with Tobias Harris.

• I’m not sure if it was the made three Tuesday or just seeing a team in the Hornets that he’s scorched in the past but Ben Simmons looked extremely confident Friday night. He hit a smooth midrange fadeaway and continually attacked the basket, finishing through contact. Simmons is at his best when he attacks the rim first and looks to facilitate off it. He was in full attack mode Friday. He had 15 points (6 of 8), five rebounds and four assists. He also made 3 of 3 from the line and was a team-high plus-23.

Simmons was also impressive defensively. He made what was likely the defensive play of the game with a tremendous chase down block on Terry Rozier early in the third.

• Harris got off to a rough start, missing his first four shots and committing two early turnovers. A dunk off a nice set up by Shake Milton seemed to get Harris going. He went on to make 6 of his next 8. When Brown talked about playing “bully ball offense,” one of the things he referenced was Harris taking advantage of his size on the wing. Harris looks like he’s taken that mentality seriously. He’s frequently been hunting and attacking mismatches early in the preseason.

He recorded 16 points (6 of 14) and eight rebounds.

• You can see what GM Elton Brand liked in Josh Richardson when he acquired the wing from the Heat in the Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade. Richardson excels in the pick-and-roll and in dribble handoffs. Brown mentioned how good Richardson is defensively navigating those situations because of his ability to “get skinny.” The same applies offensively. He’s smooth and is a strong midrange shooter. He’s also a good finisher — he features a nice floater and good touch around the rim. Not to mention he’s an excellent passer.

He also had two outstanding blocks where he used his length to close on quicker guards that got around him on drives. The Sixers got a good one here. He finished with 18 points (7 of 14), four assists, three blocks and a steal.

• Matisse Thybulle was the first wing off the bench tonight. He continues to be a game wrecking ballhawk. He stripped Zeller on a shot attempt — it was credited as a block — on his second defensive possession. He then quickly recorded a pair of steals, one coming out of nowhere to pick off a lazy bounce pass by Dwayne Bacon.

Thybulle is like Ed Reed on a basketball court. He had four steals and two blocks in just 18 minutes. He looks ready for meaningful NBA minutes.

• The veteran duo of James Ennis and Mike Scott was solid. Ennis was aggressive getting to the rim and had eight points. Scott did what he does, making 3 of 6 from three. The Sixers’ likely sixth and seventh men look ready for the regular season.

• Raul Neto and Milton didn’t really stand out offensively — though Milton was solid on the defensive end — in their extended time. While the backup point guard battle will likely come down to Neto and Trey Burke — who didn’t get in until the fourth Friday — Brown has been sure to mention that Milton will also get a look. It doesn’t appear that anybody has put a stranglehold on that spot as of yet.

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