Two nights after the Philadelphia defeated the Charlotte Hornets in overtime, the two clubs will be back at it on the same court at the Spectrum Center. The Sixers prevailed Monday night almost entirely due to the exploits of Joel Hans Embiid, who scored a season-high 43 points and scored or assisted on every Philadelphia field goal for the final 10 minutes of the game.
Fortunately for the Sixers, Embiid has mostly looked like his old self after his COVID-related absence, scoring at least 42 points in two of his five subsequent games. Against an undersized Hornets frontcourt, missing Mason Plumlee as one of Charlotte’s five players on the healthy and safety protocols list, Joel should absolutely eat again tonight.
Hopefully, though, the Sixers won’t need their superstar center to be quite so heroic tonight. A better defensive effort would go a long way towards an easier victory. As mentioned, the Hornets are missing five rotation players due to COVID protocols, including rising star LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier, who is third on the team in scoring at 17.7 points per game. So there was no excuse for Philadelphia allowing 119 points in regulation or surrendering 13 offensive rebounds, including four to 6-foot-4 guard James Bouknight, who out-hustled everyone in a Sixers uniform during his minutes off the bench.
The length and athleticism of the Hornets really made the Sixers look old and slow, especially with young dynamo Tyrese Maxey sidelined due to illness. That’s maybe something to watch again, but I’d still expect Philadelphia to provide stiffer defense tonight. The last thing you want is Embiid and the other starters logging heavy minutes again when the team has to travel for a game in Philadelphia against the Jazz tomorrow night.
Bigger picture, the Sixers have righted the ship a bit with this modest two-game winning streak to move back up to 7th in the Eastern Conference, as of this writing. They caught a huge break in having these consecutive road games in Charlotte come while half of the Hornets’ rotation was on the COVID list. Their next three games after tonight come against the 16-7 Utah Jazz, the 20-4 Golden State Warriors, and a Memphis Grizzlies club that has won five straight despite missing star point guard Ja Morant due to injury.
The Sixers really need this win tonight as they continue to navigate a difficult part of the schedule. Don’t blow the opportunity handed to you via Charlotte’s roster misfortunes by playing far below your capabilities. It’s terrific that Joel Embiid is always there as a break-in-case-of-emergency fire extinguisher if the win suddenly looks like it’s going up in flames, but let’s not have things come to that tonight.