It is never easy with this franchise. The Sixers seemingly caught a break with the Hornets being held shorthanded due to a Covid outbreak on the team. Despite being without LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, and three other rotational players, the Charlotte Hornets managed to compete with the Sixers and even push the game to overtime. In the end, the Sixers were able to secure a 127-124 victory, but the task proved to be much more difficult than it should have.
The Sixers had a fairly sloppy start to start the game and trailed by 11 points after the first quarter. The Hornets showed a much more consistent effort from the opening tip-off and continued this throughout the game. The Sixers bounced back in the second quarter and exploded for 44 points. Two late three-pointers allowed the Hornets to make it a closer game than it should have been, and the score was 67-62 at halftime.
The failure to close out quarters was a theme in this game and was a major cause for the Hornets being able to stay in the game. The Hornets went on a 12-5 run to end the first quarter, a 6-0 run to the second, and a 5-0 run to end the third before having to come from behind in the fourth to force overtime. Despite a poor overall effort, the Sixers managed to secure the victory and advance to 13-11 on the season.
Joel Embiid Usage
The man who is the best post player in the NBA is finally being used in this way. The Sixers showcased some creativity with how to get deep post matchups in the previous game against the Hawks and continued this trend tonight. Joel Embiid made a consistent effort to get down the court early in order to establish position in the paint and made use of this.
The MVP runner-up flirted with a triple-double and finished with 43 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists. This point total marks a season-high for Embiid, and he produced in an extremely efficient matter. Shooting 15-20 from the field, Embiid showed flashes of his touch from the post and mid-range which is extremely encouraging. The Sixers’ superstar put the team on his shoulders for multiple stretches of the game and was crucial to willing the team to victory.
Danny Green is an Elite Role Player
Danny Green has been the prototypical three-and-D role-player during his entire twelve-year career. It has been evident since his return from the recent hamstring injury, but Danny Green is still a great player in a complementary role. He certainly has lost a step and is prone to making a head-scratching decision at times, but the little things that he does well are incredibly important to this Sixers team.
In tonight’s matchup, Green ended with a quiet 9 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists while shooting 3-7 from the field (all attempts from beyond the three-point arc). While he may not have flashed on the box score, Green made a major impact in the utilization of Joel Embiid. The willingness to be used as a floor-spacer and commanding the defense’s respect to open up space made a super positive impact on the Sixers.
The Sixers have slipped to 7th place in the East after tonight’s win but they must have their focus set on beginning to make a run. With some difficult games on the horizon, including matchups with the Jazz, Warriors, Heat, and Nets, this makes these back-to-back matchups with the Hornets even more important. The Hornets are a talented young team, but without LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier, this should not be a game that is a challenge for the Sixers.
Doc Rivers and the team must squash the mindset that they can win games simply due to being the better team and give a more consistent effort to compete on a nightly basis. The energy boost from Tyrese Maxey was noticeably absent tonight as he was a late scratch from the game due to a non-Covid illness. Shake Milton did a pretty good job filling in as the starting guard, though the team’s leader in assists was Joel Embiid with seven.
Outside of Joel, no player of the Sixers had more than 4 assists; however, every player that played minutes tonight registered at least one. It was a positive sign to see minutes for Isaiah Joe, who knocked down three three-pointers in his 12 minutes of action. The bench had a few lapses (such as at the end of the quarters) but, for the most part, were solid in the matchup.
At the end of the day, the Sixers secured the win, which is the most important thing. They will be back in action on Wednesday for the second straight matchup with the Hornets. With the Covid protocols still limiting the Hornets roster, the Sixers must put their focus on a more well-rounded effort. It is always great to see an MVP-caliber performance from Joel Embiid, but it should not be required to take down a shorthanded and youthful team.