By Connor Thomas
Last night’s contest between the Sixers and Hornets down in the Queen City had all the makings of a blowout… until it didn’t. From the jump Philadelphia exercised utter dominance over Charlotte, holding the Hornets to a measly 13 points on 22.7% shooting in the opening quarter. Couple that with 13 points in the frame from Joel Embiid, and the Sixers held a 17 point lead by the time the first 12 minutes were done. The 2nd quarter was a little bit better for the Hornets offensively, as Charlotte’s starters all contributed pretty evenly to the team’s 29 points, but the Sixers were simply better. Embiid contributed 7 more to get to 20 points at the half, and Danny Green got hot from deep adding 8 points of his own. A 22 point lead at the half seemed completely insurmountable for the Hornets, and you would have to imagine Doc Rivers’ side felt pretty comfortable during the break. Rivers did not completely empty the bench in the 3rd quarter, but when the starters were on the floor for Philly it certainly felt like they had one eye on the Portland Trailblazers, who they will play later tonight. Outside of Embiid, who has been nothing short of transcendent this year, the Sixers clearly let off the gas in the 2nd half. Meanwhile, Devonte’ Graham and the rest of the Hornets didn’t hear no bell. Their aggressive play and 55% shooting from the floor in the 3rd was good enough for them to make up 9 points of the 22 needed to even the game.
“Alright, deep breath. You have a 13 point lead against the Hornets at the start of the 4th. Should still be an easy win, right?” That probably was the thought running through a lot of fans’ and maybe even some Sixers’ heads as the final quarter started. Enter Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month LaMelo Ball. Mathematically, it’s hard to say the game was ever really in doubt, but it sure felt like it to a lot of people watching at home. Thanks to Tobias Harris’ 13 points in the 4th the Sixers were able to ultimately pull off the win, but the fact that Charlotte was able to pull within 5 following a Ball 3 pointer after he stripped Joel Embiid from behind is somewhat troubling.
Full disclosure, I had the Sixers -6.5 so maybe the near heart attack I had while I was screaming at my TV made the game feel closer than it was. At the end of the day, the Sixers closed out a long road trip with a solid road win. There are previous editions of the Sixers that would have potentially collapsed under the weight of a comeback push. But once again, this year’s squad proved that they are not handcuffed by the shortcomings of the Philly teams of the past couple years. This year, at least for now, feels different.