Game Recap: Hornets 119, Sixers 99
A third quarter run against a post-season hopeful. That pattern has been present in each of the three games the 76ers (8-53) have played this week. As was the case in their previous two outings, the Sixers came up short, this time on Wednesday at The Center, bowing to the Charlotte Hornets (32-28), 119-99.
Buoyed by their perimeter offense, the Sixers got off to a promising start. Three of their first four field goals came from beyond the arc, and they would knock down three more triples before the opening period came to an end. The Hornets, in what would be a recurring theme, closed the period strong, establishing a 32-29 lead through 12 minutes of play.
Up until the three-minute mark of the second quarter, the Sixers never allowed Charlotte to hold a lead greater than five points. But, after the Sixers pulled to within two points on one of Isaiah Canaan’s four triples, the Hornets ripped off the final six points of the half. They carried a 58-50 advantage into the locker room.
Intermission seemed to do nothing to slow Charlotte down. The visitors’ momentum kept rolling into the second stanza, as the Hornets snapped off seven consecutive points to build their lead 14 points. Following a timeout, the Sixers got going. A Nerlens Noel put-back would launch the Sixers on a 20-3 surge that shot them in front, 70-67, with just under five minutes remaining in the third.
Once again, Charlotte would have an answer. In a run that spanned the end of the third and start of the fourth frames, the Hornets generated 27 of the contest’s next 35 points. By the time reigning NCAA Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky capped Charlotte’s charge with a triple, the Sixers confronted a 94-78 hole with eight minutes to play. The deficit would be too large to overcome.
Hornets’ point guard Kemba Walker topped all players with 30 points (10-21 fg, 8-12 ft), 20 of which were deposited in the second half. Three Sixers - Canaan, Robert Covington, and Nerlens Noel - shared team-high scoring honors with 17 points. Covington pieced together a particularly well-rounded box line, also providing a Sixers-high nine rebounds, three assists, and two blocked shots. Ish Smith netted 12 points (5-13 fg), and handed out eight assists.
Jahlil Okafor missed his second straight game due to a right shin contusion.
Brett Brown Said - On the Sixers’ physical stamina in their 119-99 defeat to the Charlotte Hornets:
“I think sometimes you get hit in the stomach, and we have to find ways to get back in it. I think the game ends up feeling long. It is long. You’re not going to win unless you play long.”
Hollis Thompson quickly made an impact in his first appearance back from a two-game absence caused by an upper respiratory infection. One minute after subbing in late in the opening quarter, the third-year Sixer hit a three-point field goal. Moments later, he converted three-points in traditional, And-1 fashion. The second of these two buckets briefly nudged the Sixers ahead.
The most encouraging stretch of Wednesday’s game occurred in the third quarter, when the Sixers strung together their 20-3 burst. Isaiah Canaan connected on at triple that tied the contest at 67-67, which Sixers Radio Network announcer Tom McGinnis described during his broadcast.
Notes and Quotes:
Okafor Sidelined Again, Three Other Sixers on Minute Restrictions
For a second straight game, the Sixers were without Jahlil Okafor. The rookie center sustained a right shin contusion late in Sunday’s fourth quarter at Orlando, after he collided with Isaiah Canaan during an offensive possession.
“It’s still something that we’re just concerned with, concerned to the point of not putting him in a position to continue for it to be sore,” said Brett Brown prior to Wednesday’s contest. “We’re going to be smart with it, and just rest him.”
Okafor paces the Sixers with 17.5 points per game, and is second on the squad with 7.0 rebounds per contest. On Monday, Brown expressed hope that Okafor would have been healthy enough to suit up for Wednesday’s tilt with Charlotte.
“I’m surprised that I’m telling you that [Okafor’s absence] went until Wednesday,” the third-year head coach said. “I thought that the Washington game was going to be the only game, and so it just hasn’t responded as quickly as we’d hoped. Obviously, at this stage of the year, we need to be smart with him, and we will.”
Okafor has now missed six games this season due to injury. In addition to Okafor, Elton Brand was also unavailable Wednesday. That three Sixers were given playing time restrictions on Wednesday further limited Brown’s roster options. T.J. McConnell, four games removed from a right ankle sprain, was placed on a 20-minute maximum. Nik Stauskas, who’s been battling right shin soreness throughout the year, had a 25-minute cap. Hollis Thompson, on the mend from his upper respiratory infection, was budgeted 16 minutes, but logged 21.
On Wednesday, the Sixers organization commemorated the life and career of Harvey “Super Stat” Pollack. Over the course of a career that lasted almost 70 years, the innovative statistician served his native city’s two professional franchises, the Warriors and Sixers.
Brett Brown got to know Pollack during Brown’s first season and a half in town. He visited Pollack just prior to his death in June of 2015.
“I would see him roaming hallways, and I come down here on game day early, and you would just bump into him, and you just were sort of amazed with the passion and the history that he represents,” said Brown. One of the NBA’s original employees dating back to the league’s inception in 1946, Pollack became a fixture, due in part to his distinct personality, and his distinct, trend-setting work. “I, as a kid, even followed some of the things he would create, and wonder who would even chart that. I think it’s a reflection of people that I’ve bumped into here.”
Brown put Pollack in the same class as some of Philadelphia’s other iconic basketball institutions, whether they be people, such former Saint Joseph’s head coach Jack Ramsay, or places, like The Palestra.
“You’re just reminded all over the place of the history, and he represented a non-playing side of the history that something that everybody in the league knows,” said Brown.
Throughout the evening, tributes honoring Pollack were shown on The Center’s center-court scoreboard. In one video, former Sixers player and head coach Doug Collins said, “Harvey’s been there for everybody. He’s seen it all.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver appeared in the same piece, saying about Pollack, “Harvey was the forefather for modern sports analytics. His impact on the game was legendary.”
Members of Pollack’s family, including his son Ron, who is a member of the Sixers’ current stat crew, appeared on the floor during a halftime ceremony. They were presented with a framed piece of the Hershey Sports Arena hardwood upon which Wilt Chamberlain had his 100-point game. The performance took place 54 years ago to the date on Wednesday night. Pollack was in attendance that day, and gave Chamberlain the famed “100” sign he was photographed with after the game.
Embiid Back, Davis Joins 87ers
After spending the better part of the final two weeks of February at the Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital in Qatar, Joel Embiid is now back in Philadelphia. As he passed through the Sixers’ locker room before Wednesday’s game, several teammates happily greeted him. Jerami Grant even gave the big man a few hugs upon.
Carl Landry, the nine-year veteran power forward, has gotten to know Embiid over the course of this campaign, Landry’s first with the Sixers.
“He’s been with us pretty much day in and day out for the whole season,” said Landry. “He’s improving, and I think he’ll be a big piece of the puzzle next year.”
The Sixers made Embiid the third overall selection in the June 2014 NBA Draft. He had a second surgery on the navicular bone in his right foot this August. During Wednesday’s pre-game warm-ups, Embiid resumed his on-court workout regimen with Todd Wright, the Sixers’ assistant coach for strength and conditioning.
As for another franchise-related nugget, the Delaware 87ers, the Sixers’ NBA Development League affiliate, signed two-time All-Star Baron Davis. The guard turns 37 years old in in April, and last appeared in an NBA game on May 6th, 2012 as a member of the New York Knicks.
“Our organizational efforts continue to center on finding, developing, and providing an opportunity to talented professionals,” said Brandon Williams in a statement. Williams is the Sixers’ Chief of Staff, and general manager of the Sevens. “Baron still has much to contribute to the game, and we are excited to play a role as he transitions through the next phase of his successful career.”
Davis appeared in over 830 games in his 13-year career.
The Sixers begin a home-and-home weekend series with the Miami Heat (34-26) on Friday at 7:00 PM EST at The Center. Despite having to deal with adverse circumstances as of late, Miami has continued to put together a strong season. In a development eerily similar to one that occurred last year, it was discovered during the All-Star Game break that Chris Bosh would require treatment to tend to possible blood clots in his leg. The 11-time All-Star hasn’t played since the break. His 19.1 points per game average remains a Heat-high, and he ranks second on the team with 7.4 rebounds per game. Over the weekend, the Heat reinforced its mostly veteran roster, signing 34-year old Joe Johnson off waivers. Johnson, the tenth-active leading scorer in the NBA, was bought out by Brooklyn, and made his Miami debut Saturday. He deposited 12 points against the New York Knicks that night, and followed up that effort by draining 24 points, his second-highest total of the year, on Tuesday versus the Chicago Bulls. Dwyane Wade has remained healthy throughout the year, averaging 19.0 points. He and the Heat have prevailed in 11 of their last 15 outings, and hold the fourth-place position in the Eastern Conference standings. Miami hosts Phoenix on Thursday.