Game Recap: Hornets 100, Sixers 91

by Brian Seltzer Reporter

Friday marked the second time in as many games that the 76ers (9-67) and Charlotte Hornets (44-31) faced one another.  Like Round 1, Round 2 went to the Hornets.  Charlotte delivered a 100-91 victory at Time Warner Cable Arena, and in the process, swept its four-game season series with the Sixers.

While there were several parallels between Tuesday’s and Friday’s pairings, one noteworthy difference was that the Sixers’ made a late push.  Down 15 points heading into the fourth quarter, the Sixers strung together a 7-0 spurt to trim their deficit to 87-83 with five minutes remaining in regulation.  

The Hornets then responded with a run of their own, using two key triples from Kemba Walker to fuel a 10-0 burst, and reclaim control.  Walker, who was limited to 16 points on Tuesday, generated game highs of 27 points (8-18 fg, 4-9 3fg) and 11 rebounds.  The double-double was his third of season.

After an evenly-played first quarter that featured six ties, three lead changes, and ended in a 25-25 deadlock, Charlotte made its move.  As they did on Tuesday at The Center, the Hornets flexed interior muscle to take control of the game, with the second frame being a case in point.  Charlotte outscored the Sixers 18-4 in the paint, and outrebounded them by 10 as well.  The result was a 34-point period, and a 59-50 halftime lead.  

Representing another similarity from Tuesday’s tilt, Charlotte, which entered Friday tied for seventh in the NBA in defensive efficiency, proved stingy.  In no quarter was that trait more evident than the third, when the Sixers were held to 16 points.  For the evening, the Sixers converted only 36.7 percent of their field goal attempts, after shooting 31.3 percent from the floor on Tuesday.  

Again turning back the clock, Elton Brand did his part to help the Sixers keep pace throughout the night.  The 37-year old had seven points and five rebounds by the break, and finished with 13 points (5-9 fg) and 11 boards overall.  Before Friday, Brand last registered a double-double on April 9th, 2014, when, as a member of the Atlanta Hawks, he posted 13 points and  pulled down 13 caroms versus the Boston Celtics.  

While he failed to duplicate his triple-double showing from Tuesday, Charlotte wing man Nicolas Batum was still a factor.  He manufactured 14 of his 19 points (8-17 fg) in the second stanza, and saved two of his game-high tying seven assists to set up key buckets in the fourth quarter.  Big men Al Jefferson (13 pts, 7 reb) and Frank Kaminsky (8 pts, 6 reb) stood out in the second, when the Hornets erased the Sixers’ four-point lead.  

Jerami Grant (5-10 fg), back after a one game absence, and Hollis Thompson (6-12 fg, 5-9 3fg) paced the Sixers, each collecting 17 points.  Carl Landry was steady on the front line, notching 16 points (8-13 fg), eight rebounds, and four assists.  T.J. McConnell handed out seven assists.  

In a reflection of two significant themes from Friday’s affair, Charlotte produced a 54-34 edge in terms of points in the paint, and a 25-11 advantage in fastbreak points.

Brett Brown Said - On being proud of the Sixers’ defensive performance in their 100-91 defeat to Charlotte Bobcats:
“Defensively, I don’t think we could have done much more.  I think to hold that team to 100 points twice...I feel like defensively, I don’t have too many regrets.  We needed to make more shots.  It’s almost that simple.  We leave Charlotte feeling quite good about our defense.  We just have to try to find a way to make some more shots.”

Top Moment:
Nik Stauskas tallied seven of his 11 points in Friday’s first half.  This determined finish punctuated the 12-2 tear that the Sixers mounted between the end of the opening and start of the second quarters.

Notes and Quotes:
Smith Pleased with Rhythm, Balance
For the sixth time in six professional seasons, Ish Smith was presented with the opportunity to play an NBA game in his hometown of Charlotte.  He entered the evening in the midst of an impressive spurt, having averaged 17.3 points and 8.3 assists over his previous three appearances, while shooting 51.1 percent from the field.  In four outings prior to this stretch, the veteran point guard had manufactured 7.3 points and 6.8 assists.  His field goal shooting percentage during that span was 29.7.

Following Friday’s shootaround at Time Warner Cable Arena, Smith spoke about his resurgent efforts as of late, and the feedback he’s been receiving from his head coach and assistants.

The the one thing about me, I’ve talked to [Associate Head] Coach [Mike] D’Antoni, [Assistant] Coach [Lloyd] Pierce, and [Head] Coach [Brett] Brown, and I think the good thing that I’ve been doing right now is just finding the balance of scoring and passing,” said Smith.  “I think that’s been the biggest thing for me.”

“Sometimes, you get in such, ‘I’m going to pass, pass, pass,’ or, ‘I’m going to score, score, score, put my head down and score.’ I think the great ones in the Steve Nashes, Tony Parkers, the Isaiah Thomases back in the day, they have a great balance.  And so this last stretch of games, and continuing on the rest of the year, just finding that balance.”

Smith’s scoring was kept in check on Friday, as he netted four points (2-9 fg).  The veteran did notch seven rebounds and five assists.  

Grant Returns
On Tuesday at The Center, the Sixers had only 10 players at their disposal, due to Jerami Grant (right knee contusion, quadriceps), Richaun Holmes (right achilles strain), and Nerlens Noel (right knee contusion) all being sidelined.  At that point in time, Brett Brown expected that he’d have the same number of bodies available Friday in the Sixers’ second go-round with Charlotte.

Such would not be the case.  Grant was cleared to start on Friday, despite being placed on a playing time limit of roughly 20 minutes.  

Before the Friday’s tilt got underway, Brown expressed hope that the presence of the second-year forward would impact the Sixers’ positively.

We’ll start with defense,” Brown said.  “[Charlotte’s] Nicolas Batum is a legitimate two-way player.  I think guarding him is always a difficult ask.  Having Jerami back to share some of that workload with Robert [Covington] and Hollis [Thompson] I suspect is going to help us some, give us another alternative.  I think the rebounding side of it always haunts us.  I think in general the defensive side of it wasn’t terrible last game.  They didn’t shoot a high percentage, they had 100 points, but it’s still where we’re trying to focus.”

Grant frequently found himself dealing with fellow four-man Marvin Williams.  Williams scored seven points, but was three for nine from the floor.  He had five rebounds as well.   

Perimeter Attack Still a Priority
One storyline that emerged from The Center on Tuesday when the Sixers and Charlotte met in the front-end of their home-and-home series was that the host team implemented a high-volume perimeter attack.  With the Sixers’ frontcourt down three regulars in Jerami Grant, Richaun Holmes, and Nerlens Noel, Brett Brown felt the Sixers would be best served by playing to the strengths of their active roster, and trying to catch fire from behind the arc.  Subsequently, the Sixers put up a franchise record-setting 44 three-point attempts.  They matched an all-time team high by connecting on 16 of those heaves.

Brown entered Friday evening in favor of adopting a similar gameplan in the Sixers’ re-match versus Hornets.

“I think it’s going to have to if we’re going to steal a win on the road against a team that is incredibly hot,” said Brown, acknowledging the Hornets’ recent success.  Charlotte notched 13 victories in March, and in doing so, equaled its highest win total ever for a month.

“They’re getting ready to go into the playoffs,” added Brown.  “They’re playing high-level basketball.  There is a chance we’ll see [guard] Jeremy Lin come in the game.  That’s a legitimate, at-any-moment, 20, 25-point player.  He can just sort of burst off a bench and be lightning in a bottle and score at that rate, and so we’re going to need to play with pace and free and I think that the way they guard, the way they pack the paint, that’s the shot you end up with, and I feel I’m ok with it, given our personnel, and where we’re at.  I expect to see another game similar to what we saw in Philly.”

The Sixers indeed went back to the longball, hoisting 39 three-point attempts in the first half.  The Sixers are averaging 37.6 triple tries over their last five games.

Next Up:
The Sixers complete their second-to-last back-to-back set of the season by beginning a four-game homestand on Saturday.  They tip off with the Indiana Pacers (39-36) at 7:30 PM EST at The Center. Having dropped three of its past four contests, Indiana is now standing on tenuous ground in the Eastern Conference.  The Pacers entered the weekend eighth in the East, just one game in front of their division rival the Chicago Bulls.  On Thursday, Indiana missed out on an important opportunity to bounce back at home, instead suffering a 114-94 setback to the 32-43 Orlando Magic.  The defeat capped a stretch in which the Pacers played eight out of nine games in the comforts of Indianapolis.   Four of the club’s final seven outings will now be held on the road.  Of note is that  Indiana has games remaining against Cleveland and Toronto, the top two teams in the conference, respectively.  The  Pacers knocked off the Sixers 12 days ago at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 91-75.



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