The Hornets and the Sixers came into the game with 29th and 30th ranked offenses, respectively, in terms of points per possession. They both also have strong defenses, with the Sixers ranking 10th in the league in defensive rating since January 1st, and the Hornets ranking 1st during that time.
With that in mind, a low scoring game was hardly a surprise. While not necessarily pretty -- the Hornets shot 34.5% for the game on their way to an 83.9 offensive rating, with the Sixers shooting a blistering 39.2% on their way to a 92.2 -- the end result gave the Sixers their 4th straight win at home.
It was only the second time this season that the Sixers won when shooting below 40%, and only the third time they won a game without scoring at least 90 points. The Sixers didn't win a game in 2013-14 under either of those circumstances.
The Sixers offense was once again a tale of two halves, as they shot only 26.3% with 7 turnovers in the 2nd quarter, but followed that up by scoring 28 points on 42.9% shooting in the third quarter. The Sixers were led offensively by Robert Covington, who scored 19 of his 22 points in the second half, including 5-8 from three point range.
Covington found himself with a little bit more room to operate when Michael Kidd-Gilchrist left the game with a strained right hamstring with 5:24 remaining in the second quarter. The Hornets hold opponents to 42.4% shooting from the field and opponents have an offensive rating of 94.0 when Kidd-Gilchrist is on the court, which balloons to 44.9% shooting and an offensive rating of 104 when he's on the bench.
Last night, the Sixers shot 26.1% and had an offensive rating of 66.6 during the roughly 14 minutes that Kidd-Gilchrist played, but shot 45.1% with an offensive rating of 101.9 in the 34+ minutes that Kidd-Gilchrist was out of the game.
|with / without
|Opp Off Rtg
|Feb 7th vs Sixers
* offensive rating per nba.com formula
The Sixers received another strong performance from Hollis Thompson, who scored 18 points on 6-9 shooting, including 3-6 from three point range. Thompson is now averaging 19 points per game over his last 3 games and is shooting 62.9% from three point range over his last 5, averaging 3.4 makes per game from long range during that time. Thompson, who shot 40.1% from deep during his rookie campaign, had shot only 31.6% from three point range during his 2nd season before the recent hot streak.
Tim Frazier, playing in his second NBA game and starting the first game of his NBA career, was scoreless on 0-7 shooting from the field, but did have 8 assists in over 36 minutes. Since 1985-86 Frazier's 19 assists in his first 2 NBA games ranks as the 3rd highest total.
Frazier didn't do anything incredibly flashy, and his 12.5% shooting so far in his NBA career shows some of the struggles he'll have as an NBA player, but he plays pressure defense on the perimeter and pushes the ball in transition. Of Frazier's 8 assists last night 4 came to either Covington or Thompson after pushing the ball hard up the court.
"You just see what goes on when you have somebody that can make the long ball, and can do it by himself," Brett Brown said after the game when discussing Covington. "He just took the space that was given to him and delivered. We can't take much credit for running a play for him.
"I think the pace helped set that up," Brown continued. "I thought Tim Frazier did a heck of a job pushing the ball and finding shooters, and Robert was the recipient of pace and some great plays by Tim."
On the season, Robert Covington is averaging nearly a third of his three point attempts within the first 6 seconds of the 24 second shot clock, and he's shooting an incredible 52.9% from three point range on those attempts.
While the Sixers were able to operate a little bit better on the offensive side of the ball in the second half, it was the Sixers defense which propelled their run, a 38-10 sprint that started late in the 2nd quarter and continued into the 3rd, and allowed the Sixers to turn a 16 point deficit into a commanding lead.
The Sixers held Charlotte to only 33 points on 38 field goal attempts in a second half which saw Charlotte shoot only 26% from the field. Nerlens Noel was once again a big part of that, as he collected 8 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks to go along with his 12 points (which included 3 jumpers!).
"The game's gone. The game is leaving us. We have to try to find a way to bring this back to some level of respectability," Brett Brown said about his team before it went on the run. "[The 3rd quarter was] maybe our best period of the season. [It] was just really exceptional on both sides."
Beating the Hornets, who were already without Kemba Walker and lost Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the second quarter, might not seem like a great accomplishment, but the Hornets have been playing very well of late, winning 12 of their previous 15 games heading into their contest against the Sixers, fueled by a defense that has been playing as well as any team in the league. And the Sixers, heading into last night, were 1-21 over the past two seasons in games Michael Carter-Williams did not play. The combination of those two led Brett Brown to call last night's game one of the best wins of the season for the 76ers.
For a team that started the year off by losing 14 straight at home, the Sixers are slowly building an identity at the Wells Fargo Center.