Marco Bellinelli scored 22 points on a near perfect afternoon from the floor as the 76ers win their tenth straight, defeating the Charlotte Hornets 119-102 on the road Sunday.
Bellinelli was stellar in 31 minutes off the bench, knocking down nine of ten shots from the floor, picking up his game high 22 points. The lone Bellinelli miss came on a half court heave as time expired in the second quarter. The sharpshooter knocked down three of his his four three point attempts, as well.
The 76ers needed the offensive production from the usual secondary scorer with Joel Embiid still ailing from a broken orbital bone that will require surgery, and Dario Saric inactive with a sore elbow. While Saric likely won’t miss much time, his presence was set to be sorely missed offensively.
Philadelphia struggled on offense out of the shoot, missing its first three attempts from the field. This allowed the Hornets to score the game’s first five points. After the completion of the first three minutes, however, it was Charlotte that couldn’t find its range, as the 76ers used a 9-0 run to claim a four point lead. The Hornets connected on just two of their first nine shots from the field, but finished the first quarter 11-23, as the team knocked down nine of its final 14 shots in the initial 12 minutes.
In the first quarter, the the Hornets were paced by Michael Kidd Gilchrist, who had eight first quarter points on 3-4 shooting.
The 76ers were equally as unimpressive from the field int he first quarter, as the team struggled to find consistency in the wake of the injuries to Embiid and Saric. Philadelphia hit just seven of its first 20 shots. The 76ers did, however, knock down their final three attempts to finish the first 10-23. J.J. Redick found six of his 20 game points in the first quarter to pace the 76ers. In 28 minutes, Redick was extremely efficient, connecting on 7 of 15 from the field, including five of eight from beyond the arc.
After on quarter, the 76ers trailed the Hornets 29-28.
Offensive woes plagued both teams early in the second quarter, as the two combined for just 13 points over the first four minutes of second quarter action. Robert Covington certainly did not have his best shooting performance throughout most of the contest, as he missed his first six shots from the field, including a dunk underneath the basket. He would come alive later in the contest, though, as Covington finished 7-21 from the field, picking up 17 points. While Covington did shoot just 1-9 from deep, he was one of five different 76ers to score at least 16 points.
Shortly after the inefficiencies from both teams, the 76ers would use a quick 8-0 run to extend their lead to seven, 41-34. Marco Bellinelli picked up five of those and Ersan Ilyasova added three. Ilyasova went 5-8 from the field throughout the game, including 4-7 from beyond the arc, to add an additional 16 points for Philadelphia.
During the stretch that extended the 76er lead, the Hornets struggled, once more, from the field, connecting for two baskets on eight shots over a six minute stretch. One Hornet that particularly went unnoticed was all-star Kemba Walker, who didn’t factor in the scoring until nearly 20 into the contest, and didn’t connect on his first field goal until 1:20 left in the second quarter.
By half, the 76ers would extend their lead to the largest of the game through 24 minutes, as they led the Hornets 60-51 going into the break.
The 76ers would continue to put their foot on the gas pedal out of the break, scoring eight of the first 12 points in the second quarter, extending their lead to a game high 13 points. Dating back to the second quarter and into a lengthy stretch of the third quarter, Ben Simmons was the driving factor, picking up with the fallen Embiid and Saric left off. Simmons contributed, either scoring or assisting on, 28 of 29 points for the 76ers over that stretch. Simmons finished with 20 points on 8-17 shooting. He fell two rebounds shy of an 11th triple-double, collecting eight rebounds and a career-high tying 15 assists.
The Hornets stormed back midway through the third quarter, using a 7-0 run to trim the lead to six, 68-62 with 8:47 left. They would then add seven of the next 11 to cut the 76ers’ lead to just three, 72-69. Nicolas Batum only produced eight points in the game, but he grabbed six of them in this stretch to pace Charlotte.
After the Hornets cut the lead to one, 72-71, the 76ers would use a 12-0 run of their own to recapture a sizeable lead, one they would not squander the rest of the afternoon. Malik Monk knocked down a three to end the Charlotte scoring drought, but the 76ers’ lead was back up to 12, 86-74, at that point.
Philadelphia took another 13 point lead, tied for the game’s largest to this point, into the final quarter of play, leading the Hornets 91-78.
Right out of the gate, the 76ers took on a 9-2 run to extend their lead to 20, 100-80. That run would help fuel the 76ers’ assist totals, which surpassed 30 for the ninth consecutive game. Only three teams, the 1972 Boston Celtics, 1989 Charlotte Hornets and 2016 Golden State Warriors have had longer streaks.
The Hornets used one final push, a 7-0 run, to crawl within 13 points, 100-87, with 8:27 remaining, but would never really threaten any further. The 76ers captured the final quarter 28-24, to finish off the Hornets, defeating Charlotte 119-102.
For the 76ers, the win marks a tenth consecutive victory for the first time since the 2000-2001 season. It also propels Philadelphia to 16 games over .500 for the first time since 2003. The 76ers have now won four games over the Hornets in 30 days, sweeping the season series against Charlotte.With the victory, the 76ers improve to 46-30 on the season. For the time being, the 76ers are now tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the three seed in the Eastern Conference. At the time of this being written, the Cavaliers led the Dallas Mavericks 48-47 at halftime.
The 76ers will be back in action Tuesday night when they welcome the Brooklyn Nets to the Wells Fargo Center. Tip off is set for 7 p.m., and you can hear it all on 97.5 The Fanatic!
-By Tyler Zulli