Joel Embiid scored 25 points and tied a career-high with 19 rebounds as the 76ers defeated the Charlotte Hornets 108-94 at the Wells Fargo Center Monday night.
Embiid was far more efficient in running up his point total than he was a few nights ago in Brooklyn, as the 76ers’ big man shot 10-17 from the field, including knocking down four of six from beyond the arc on his way to a 25 point outing. The center produced 19 of the team’s 60 rebounds, as the 76ers outrebounded the Hornets 60-40, including 17-7 on the offensive glass. Embiid was also able to avenge his poor defensive performance in Charlotte less than two weeks ago, when he allowed Dwight Howard to post a game high 30 points. Monday night was much different, as the 76ers held Howard to just ten points and 28 minutes due to early foul trouble.
Howard would score six of his ten points early in the first quarter, producing six of the Hornets first eight points on the night. However, J.J. Redick would outpace Howard through the first quarter of play, leading all scorers with seven points in a defensive first quarter. After the 76ers jumped out to a 21-14 lead, the Hornets scored the final four points of the quarter, drawing within three, 21-18, through the first 12 minutes of play. The two teams combined to shoot just 35 percent from the field in the first quarter, including 18 percent from three.
Charlotte would play the aggressor to begin the second quarter, jumping out to an 11-4 run to begin the frame, taking the lead 29-25. The run was paced, in part, by former 76ers’ draft pick, Willy Hernangomez, who scored six points over the stretch, and 15 points in the second quarter. He would finish the half with 17, but Hernangomez failed to score in the second half.
The 76ers would immediately turn things around, going on a 10-2 run of their own to recapture the lead, 35-31. The final bucket of the scoring spree came off the hands of Ben Simmons, who finished the evening with 11 points, 15 assists, and 12 rebounds, his ninth triple-double of his rookie season. While he won’t catch Oscar Robertson for most all time, the output over the last three weeks by Ben Simmonds is nothing short of spectacular.
The Hornets would use one final first half run of their own to take the lead going into the break. Over the final 4:23 of the half, Charlotte outscored the 76ers 17-7 to take an intermission lead 56-49. No 76er scored in double figures in the first half, but the production from the starting five was there.
Philadelphia came out firing offensively to open the second half, a trend we’ve seen fairly consistently from the team over the last few weeks. The 76ers would hit a barrage of triples to open the third frame, two coming from Joel Embiid, the other, from J.J. Redick, as Philadelphia went on a quick 9-0 run to take a two point lead, 58-56.
Their third quarter defensive trends continued as well, as the 76ers held the Hornets to just 14 third quarter points. After Jeremy Lamb connected on a floater with 8:27 to go in the quarter, it would take Charlotte nearly three more minutes to pick up its second field goal of the half. Over the first six minutes of the third quarter, the 76ers held the Hornets to seven points offensively. The split remained even through the final six minutes of the quarter, as the Hornets could muster just seven additional points on two made buckets. The Hornets shot 4-19 from the field in the third quarter, connecting on just 21 percent of their attempts. They also turned the ball over five times in the quarter, not helping their offensive woes.
Marco Bellinelli found a groove midway through the quarter, as the 76ers’ sharpshooter knocked down three consecutive triples to go on a personal 9-1 run against the Hornets, helping the 76ers’ lead grow to ten, 75-65. Bellinelli would finish the contest with 21 points on 8-14 shooting, including 5-9 from beyond the arc, off the bench.
The 32-14 quarter victory propelled the 76ers to an 11 point lead heading into the fourth quarter, 81-70. It was a lead they would never relinquish.
While the 76ers would never give up their third quarter lead, Malik Monk and Kemba Walker would do everything they could to keep the Hornets in the game. Monk knocked down consecutive threes to open the Hornets’ scoring in the fourth quarter, trimming the 76ers’ lead to 83-76. He would finish the quarter with eight points and end the night with 13 off the bench. Walker, an ever-present offensive threat, was held in check the last time these two teams met in a frustrating outing for the UCONN guard. Walker provided nine points for Charlotte in the fourth quarter on his way to a team-high 24 on the night.
Those two triples from Monk were a part of a 13-2 Hornets’ run that cut the 76ers’ lead to just two points, 85-83, with 7:26 left in the game. Moments later, they would tie the game at 88.
Just as things were getting uncomfortable for the home crowd, the 76ers exploded for 13 straight points, including a triad of threes from Robert Covington and Marco Bellinelli, over 2:23 to extend the Philadelphia lead to 101-88 with under four minutes remaining.
The Hornets would draw no closer than 11 points, as the 76ers found their way to a third consecutive victory, 108-94.
The win for the 76ers improves their record to 39-30, including 22-11 at the Wells Fargo Center. With the Washington Wizards idle Monday night, the 76ers gained a half a game on the fifth place Wizards and now sit just a half game out of the fifth seed. The Wizards are back in action Wednesday night when they travel to San Antonio to take on the Spurs. The Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers both won Monday night, so Philadelphia gains no ground on the pair. With 12 games remaining on the 76ers’ schedule, they hold an eight and a half game advantage over the Detroit Pistons, who currently sit outside the playoff standings. As the season draw to an end, the conclusion becomes more clear that Philadelphia will be a playoff team this season.
The 76ers are back on the hardwood Wednesday night, when they welcome the Memphis Grizzlies to the Wells Fargo Center. Tip is scheduled for 7 p.m., and you can catch all the action on 97.5 The Fanatic!
-By Tyler Zulli