After a demoralizing loss to the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night, the Philadelphia 76ers (0-3) head down south to take on the Charlotte Hornets (2-1).
Philadelphia seemed to have their first win of the season all but wrapped up, holding a four-point lead and possession with just 1:19 left. But two Joel Embiid turnovers prevented the Sixers from putting the game on ice, and with the game now tied at 101, T.J. McConnell earned a flagrant foul on Serge Ibaka after a loose ball fell in the big man’s lap right under the rim.
The Sixers never got the ball back, and were handed their third defeat in three games. Despite the late game flounders, Embiid’s body of work continues to impress. In 24 minutes of action, he finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks, and three assists. His per-36 numbers — 29.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 12 free throw attempts — are almost unfathomable.
The rest of the Sixers offense seems to be coming together as well. Sergio Rodriguez chipped in a double-double of his own, scoring 12 points and dropping 11 dimes in 32 minutes of action. Hollis Thompson had 22 points while shooting 4-4 from beyond the arc, and Dario Saric broke out of his shooting slump to contribute a career-high 21 points on 15 shots.
Because the team is in the midst back-to-back games, head coach Brett Brown opted to split up Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor. After missing Tuesday’s game, Jahlil Okafor will play against the Hornets, and he’s expected to see 20 minutes of action. Embiid will miss his first game of the 2016-17 season.
Okafor is shooting just 35 percent from the season, and his matchup against the Hornets frontline won’t be an easy one. Roy Hibbert leads the team with 2.5 blocks per game, and the team is above average in rebounding, a department Okafor has struggled with in his young career.
On the flip side, the Hornets are coming off a 104-98 loss to the Boston Celtics where the team shot just 40.5 percent from the floor and 28.1 percent from beyond the arc. Charlotte point guard Kemba Walker has been carrying a bulk of the Hornets offense, averaging 23.3 points and shooting 45 percent from three-point range on 6.7 attempts per game. Opposing starting point guards have put up solid numbers against the Sixers so far, and Walker likely won’t be an exception.
The numbers have indicated how poorly the Sixers play without Embiid, and that’ll be on full display Wednesday night. While it’ll be interesting to see how the new look Sixers play with Okafor as the main source of offense, it’ll also serve as a reminder to how different things are when Embiid is absent.
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