Game Review | Fourth-Quarter Surge Fuels Victory Over Hornets
Playing their second game in as many nights, on the heels of a noteworthy win against arguably the league’s most dynamic player, the 76ers needed some time to find their legs. But once they did, they left their opponent in the dust.
Summoning up another impressive closing kick, the Sixers powered their way to a 110-99 victory Friday over the Charlotte Hornets.
The win represented the club’s second straight, third this season in the finale of a back-to-back, and 13th in a row at The Center.
“We found a way to come back, win at home, and reload on a back-to-back,” said Brett Brown, whose Sixers didn’t get off the ground in Cleveland until 1:30 am Friday morning, after beating the Cavaliers Thursday night.
Trailing by one point, 92-91, midway through Friday’s fourth frame, the Sixers shifted into high gear, ripping off a 19-7 spurt to end the game. They outscored Charlotte 36-19 over the the final 12 minutes of regulation, erasing a 14-point second half deficit along the way.
Ersan Ilyasova turned in a pivotal 18-point performance off the bench, and assumed an integral role in turning around the Sixers’ fortunes. His presence loomed large in Friday’s fourth quarter, as he netted 11 points amidst his new old club’s successful comeback.
“The team’s play tonight, it was just tremendous,” said Ilyasova, who rejoined the Sixers Wednesday. “There’s a lot of talented guys, and we just play as a unit, good things will happen.”
Friday’s second half backed up that statement, as the Sixers received valuable contributions from across their line-up.
Joel Embiid, for instance, provided the team with a needed infusion of energy both at the beginning and end of Friday’s third period. He pumped out 15 points in the quarter, and manufactured 23 points (8-19 fg, 1-4 3fg, 6-11 ft) and 15 rebounds in all.
Then, there was Robert Covington, who set the tone for the last quarter by scoring its first five points, en route to an efficient 16-point effort (5-10 fg, 2-4 3fg).
Over the course of Friday’s contest, Ben Simmons was steady, supplying the Sixers with 15 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. JJ Redick added 18 points of his own.
The lasting impression from Friday's triumph came on a sequence of three straight hard-driving baskets from Redick, Simmons, and Ilyasova that pushed the lead to five points with two and a half minutes to go. It was an undeniable punctuation made even more impressive on the second night of a back-to-back.
Close Out Club
The Sixers, a closeout club? More and more, based on recent evidence, Brett Brown believes that yes, there is a positive trend building.
In Thursday’s 108-97 victory at Cleveland, the Sixers strung together a decisive 8-0 run after the Cavs got within a point with two and a half minutes left.
Then, less than 24 hours later in Friday’s back-and-forth battle against Charlotte, the Sixers again answered in crunch time. They trailed 94-93 with five minutes on the clock, but took off following a pair of clutch Robert Covington free throws.
A lay-up from JJ Redick, a driving dunk from Ben Simmons, followed by another interior basket from Ersan Ilyasova, and the Sixers were up five, 101-96, with two and a half minutes left.
(Joel Embiid might not have scored in Friday’s fourth quarter, but, as the video below shows, he certainly affected each of those three scoring plays.)
A big man's non-scoring impact on his team's clutch finish, in three plays.
With Embiid drawing Dwight out of the paint, Charlotte had no protection left inside, or at the rim.
— Brian Seltzer (@brianseltzer) March 3, 2018
Once again, the Sixers made winning plays when it mattered most.
“You all follow us, I sit there and coach us, and we’ve seen growth, you can’t deny that,” Brown told reporters, when asked about the Sixers’ improved fourth-quarter performance. “I think for all of us to watch how the team has responded in execution and belief in close games is not to be disputed. It’s real for me.”
As the season has moved along, Brown said the Sixers have gradually grown their fourth-quarter playbook. His goal has been to keep things spaced, clean, and purposeful.
Friday, it all clicked. The Sixers’ 36 fourth-quarter points marked a season-high, while the 17-point fourth-quarter scoring differential was their second-highest of the year.
The Sixers converted 55.0 percent of their shots in the closing frame, held Charlotte to under 27.0 percent shooting, and generated a plus-8 rebounding advantage.
“We sure came to play in the fourth period,” said Brown.
It’s been a whirlwind past two days for Ersan Ilyasova.
The veteran forward signed for his second stint with the Sixers Wednesday night, was in uniform Thursday at Cleveland (6 pts, 2 reb, 18 min), and then was right back at it Friday versus Charlotte.
After going 1 for 3 from the field and committing three fouls in six minutes during Friday’s first half, Ilyasova found his rhythm. He posted four points in the third quarter, before bursting for 11 points in the fourth.
Logging eight minutes in the last period of play, Ilyasova hit all four of his shots, including a go-ahead 3-pointer that made it 91-89. Later on in the fourth, with five and a half minutes remaining, the 30-year old punched in two free throws, which nudged the Sixers back in front, 93-92.
“It’s not like we don’t know each other,” Brett Brown said of his Turkish veteran. “We know each other well, he knows the system quite well. There’s lots to re-familiarize himself with, but he’s a massive pick-up at this stage in my eyes.”
Consistent with his professional reputation, Ilyasova even drew one of his signature charges in Friday’s fourth quarter. He now ranks third in the league this season with 22 charges taken.
“It’s a great feeling,” Ilyasova said of being back with the Sixers. “I’m just glad it worked out the way it did.”
Safe to say the feeling seems mutual.
Embiid Dominant Third Quarter
Have to take a moment to highlight Joel Embiid’s third quarter.
Right out of the gates following halftime, the 7-footer was ready to roll.
He turned aside Dwight Howard for one of his three blocked shots, then proceeded to score seven points in a row. The tear was the byproduct of three authoritative baskets, including two dunks.
When Embiid subbed out midway through the third quarter, the Sixers’ deficit was only 63-60. By the time he returned to the court, the margin had grown to 11.
From there, Embiid went back to work. He punched in eight more points and brought the Sixers within six, 80-74, by the time the third quarter concluded.
“In the third quarter, we knew we needed to come out aggressive, especially defensively,” Embiid said. “We played hard, and we got back in the game.”
It was an effort the big man was very much responsible for spearheading.
The start to Friday’s second half was indeed explosive, and for that, the Sixers had largely a large man to thank. Joel Embiid pulverized the rim on back-to-back possessions, a stretch capped by this athletic alley-oop delivery packed up nicely by Ben Simmons.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) March 3, 2018
Just like that, the Sixers will set back out on the road, heading to Milwaukee for Sunday’s meeting with the Bucks. The game will be the latest for the Sixers in a string of pairings with fellow Eastern Conference playoff hopefuls. As of Friday, the Sixers held a 0.5 game lead over Milwaukee for sixth-place in the standings. The Bucks hosted fifth-place Indiana Friday, hoping to halt a three-game losing streak.