The Charlotte Hornets had five players out tonight due to health and safety protocols, including the starting backcourt of LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier. They also played last night in Atlanta, whereas the Sixers were the more well-rested team despite the travel, having not played since Friday night. While the Philadelphia 76ers were missing Tyrese Maxey, who was out with a non-COVID illness, tonight should have been an easy win.
(Ominous narrator’s voice) It was not.
For whatever reason, the Sixers looked like the team without any energy tonight. The Hornets outhustled Philadelphia to win the second-chance points battle. They took better care of the basketball (eight turnovers to 15 by the Sixers). Plus, Kelly Oubre Jr. had himself a night, making six three-pointers on his way to a team-high 35 points.
Notice I said team-high and not game-high, because fortunately, the Sixers had Joel Embiid to pull their fat out of the fryer. The big man tallied 43 points on a sparkling 15-of-20 shooting line from the field, chipping in 15 rebounds and seven assists against three turnovers. After the Sixers were down double digits heading into the second quarter, Embiid sparked a resurgence, dominating down low for deep post position and crushing the undersized Charlotte front line for 13 points in the frame. Embiid led the charge as Philadelphia scored 44 points in the period, the team’s highest point total in any quarter this season.
Joel kept it going in the third quarter, recording 13 points yet again. This time, he started spacing the floor and found a handful of jumpers to his liking.
Tobias Harris joined Embiid in scoring 13 points of his 21 points in the third, knocking down back-to-back three-pointers as the Sixers struggled to maintain their lead against a feisty Hornets bunch.
Down the stretch, Embiid converted a couple buckets, continuing to assert his control of the proceedings.
Joel Embiid blowing by the 6-foot-5 Cody Martin. Totally normal!— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) December 7, 2021
However, the Sixers had some difficulties closing a game out, as usual. After scoring just one point across three minutes, the Sixers had the ball with the score tied at 116 and around a minute left. Danny Green tried to get the ball to Embiid posting up but didn’t recognize Gordon Hayward coming on the backside to double and the ball was immediately stolen. Oubre Jr. drained a three on the other end and it was looking like disaster for the Sixers. Fortunately, Embiid drove to draw the foul on the next possession, making one of two free throws, and then hit a jumper on the subsequent trip down to tie the game. His contested shot on the final play of regulation hit backboard and rimmed out, but Joel had done his job to at least drag the Sixers to bonus basketball.
In overtime, Embiid scored the Sixers’ first six points, and then found Harris with a great entry pass for a dunk under the basket (if only he could throw entry passes to himself). Sixers fans had to sweat one final Oubre Jr. three-point attempt at the final buzzer, but it found back iron and Philadelphia escaped with the 127-124 overtime victory. These two teams will be back at it on the same court Wednesday night.
Other Quick Thoughts:
- Shake Milton had another solid game, this time filling in for Maxey with the starting group. He was 4-of-6 from behind the arc on his way to 16 points, and always looked in control and able to get to his spots for good looks.
- Isaiah Joe, you can hit three triples in 12 minutes for my team anytime, my friend.
- Chaotic good minutes from Andre Drummond tonight, who I even thought was the recipient of a couple bad referee decision (called for an offensive foul when it looked like he was just getting good post position, and not getting the foul when someone pushed him on an alley-oop attempt). Six points, two assists, two blocks, and this wonderful highlight.