Ben Simmons fell two rebounds short of his seventh triple-double of the season, but the Philadelphia 76ers handled the Charlotte Hornets 128-114 on the road Tuesday night.
Simmons dished out 13 assists and added 16 points of his own on a near perfect shooting night for the rookie point guard. His only miss came failed dunk attempt in the second half. Simmons was one of seven 76ers to score in double figures.
Leading the 76ers was Robert Covington, who poured in 22 points on seven of 11 from the field, connecting on five of his nine opportunities from three. The 22 points were the most scored by Covington in a single game in over three months, as tonight was his first 20-point outburst since December 2, when the 76ers hosted the Detroit Pistons. He added 14 of his 22 points in the second half.
The first half featured eight lead changes, as the two teams matched almost identically for much of the first 24 minutes. The 76ers would pull away midway through the second quarter thanks to a 21-4 run over a five minute span, paced by a balanced attack from beyond the arc. The 76ers knocked down nine threes in the first half, shooting 67 percent from deep. The team would finish with 16 made triples on 33 attempts, shooting 48.5 percent from beyond the arc on the night.
As the 76ers began to pull away in the second quarter, the Hornets emotions boiled over after a no-call on the 76ers’ defense. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was handed a technical for approaching the referee. An additional ref dished out a second technical, and a subsequent ejection, in less than a minute to Kidd-Gilchrist, who continued to chirp at the officials. After Kidd-Gilchrist was ejected from the game, Treveon Graham saw an uptick in minutes, and VCU product contributed quickly, scoring 12 points in 25 minutes played.
The Hornets were paced by center Dwight Howard in a contest where roles were reversed for the game’s two starting centers. Howard led all scorers with 30 points on the night, including his first three pointer made of the 2018 season, as time expired in the first half. Howard managed just six points when these two teams squared off at the Wells Fargo Center four days ago. In round two of the heavyweight battle, Howard outplayed Joel Embiid, who finished with 18 points, but contributed just four points in the first half. 76ers’ Head Coach Brett Brown took exception to Embiid’s slow start, praising the remainder of his roster for their contributions.
“We had 71 points in the first half, and he only had four. It shows that we’re growing our bench and he has players around him who care and are capable,” Brown said.
The Hornets didn’t entirely go away, starting the second half strong, pulling the deficit back to seven points, 77-70, as the third quarter got underway. They would chip a fourth quarter 76ers’ lead to nine with nine and half minutes to play, but the 76ers kept the attack at arm’s length, and the lead was back to 15 points within two minutes of play.
Charlotte’s leading scorer, Kemba Walker, who averages 23.6 points per game, was nonexistent for much of the night, as the Sixers swarmed him on the court. The seventh year veteran was held to just five points on the night. Walker’s first basket from the field came with just 8:07 left in the fourth quarter after he managed two free throws in the first half. He finished the night one for nine, including zero for five from beyond the arc.
The Sixers were able to empty the bench late in the fourth quarter, as every player logged minutes tonight, with the exception of Jerryd Bayless. Justin Anderson returned from an ankle injury, seeing the court for the first time since February 12 against the New York Knicks.
With the victory, the 76ers improve to 35-28 on the season, and keep pace with the Washington Wizards, who defeated the Miami Heat in overtime tonight. The 76ers remain one game back of the Wizards for the five seed in the Eastern Conference, but also gain a game on the Heat, who now sit two games back of the 76ers. The Hornets fall into a deeper hole as the season begins to come to a close, dropping to 28-37. Charlotte is now six games out of the eight seed, Miami.
The 76ers will be back in action Thursday night when travel back to Miami for the second time in nine days, as they look to exact revenge over the Heat, after falling to Miami 102-101 on a game winning bucket from Dwayne Wade. You can hear that game at 7:30 p.m. Thursday night on 97.5 The Fanatic.
- By Tyler Zulli