Sixers at Hornets: Joel Embiid, Sixers steamed to seventh straight win

The Sixers cruised to their seventh straight win on Friday night.

The team blew out the Hornets 121-82 at the Spectrum Center, improving to 47-22 this season. The Sixers’ 39-point margin of victory was their highest margin of victory of the year.

Charlotte dropped its fifth straight game to fall to 22-50.

Before the Celtics’ game in Portland on Friday, the Sixers were a half-game behind Boston for second place in the Eastern Conference.

Joel Embiid continued to play special basketball with a performance of 38 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and four blocks in 29 minutes.

James Harden scored a triple-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Tobias Harris added 18 points.

Jalen McDaniels missed his second straight game with a right hip contusion. LaMelo Ball, Cody Martin, Mark Williams and Theo Maledon were out for Charlotte with injuries.

The Sixers conclude their three-game road trip on Saturday against the Pacers. Here are the observations from their eight wins from nine companies in March:

Harris joins in on the fun

The Sixers’ first play was sweet and familiar: Harden to Embiid for an easy layup.

However, theirs The turnover issues from Wednesday’s win against the Cavs carried over into the early stages. Embiid grabbed one while trying to force the ball inside Harris on a flex cut. It made sense that the Sixers wanted to target Harris early; over the past six games, he had averaged just 8.2 points and shot 28.6 percent from the floor. Harris made the first two shots, knocked down a three from the wing and backed up Kelly Oubre Jr. for a bucket, but his opener lasted just over four minutes. Harris got paid for his second foul on an Oubre jumper, and Georges Niang walked.

Harris returned to the game in the second quarter. The Hornets managed to stay close for a while in part due to the Sixers’ mediocre defense. PJ Washington beat Harris for a rebound. Rookie guard Bryce McGowens drove past Shake Milton before converting one at the rim.

However, everything fell into place when Embiid came back in. Milton made a put-back layup after Embiid passed Darryl Dawkins for the sixth most blocks in Sixers history on Friday. After a Harris steal, Harden fed Embiid a slick pass between the legs. Harris has often emphasized that he thrives when the team’s offense is flowing and the Sixers’ rhythm is sharp. Sure enough, he scored five points late in the second quarter and finished the first half with 13 on 5-7 shooting. That was more than he had posted in any of the previous six games.

Harris had a laugh with PJ Tucker early in the third quarter when he tried to trick Nick Richards. Although Harris couldn’t quite get it off, he made a mistake. Less than 30 seconds later, he successfully laid down one on the Sixers’ fast break.

Ruthless, highly efficient Embiid

Facing a team he had scored 53 points against in December, Embiid didn’t knock the Hornets off right away. Richards, a third-year center, recovered well to keep him inside after first unloading on a pump fake.

However, Embiid inevitably found his game. During a 12-0 Sixers run in the first quarter, he got thinner and thinner shortly before hitting a blindfold and a layup that he flipped over his shoulder.

By midway through the second quarter, the 29-year-old looked to be at his peak, and the Harden-Embiid pick-and-roll was running rampant. Harden had six assists in the second quarter to pass Bob Cousy for 20th place on the NBA’s all-time assists list. The 33-year-old had a shooting night (4-for-15 from the floor, 0-for-6 from 3-point range), but still notched his 74th career triple-double.

Meanwhile, Embiid hit all six of his second-quarter field goals. He remained relentless after the break, continuing to play tough defense en route to a third straight four-block performance while looking unstoppable offensively. After starting 1-of-4 from the floor, Embiid sank 15 of his next 17 field goals. Despite not playing fourth-quarter minutes in three of the last five games in the Sixers’ clinching victories, Embiid has scored more than 30 points in each of his last eight outings.

Saves his legs

Vice captain Kai Jones was a bright spot for the Hornets. He made a pair of jumpers against Embiid in the third quarter, and it looked like the Sixers might have to wait longer than they wanted to get their rookie out.

Any slight concern on this front soon evaporated. Embiid took a jumper at the top of the key, drew a foul from Jones and watched with satisfaction as the shot bounced high off the back rim before dropping through the rim. He lost in the third round at 1:36.

Paul Reed (eight points, 10 rebounds, three blocks) and Dewayne Dedmon split fourth quarter garbage time. Danuel House Jr., Furkan Korkmaz and Charlotte native Jaden Springer also had extended runs in the fourth. Montrezl Harrell was the only active Sixers who did not play.

Clearly, the zero-stress finish was ideal for the Sixers for the first night in a row. Their last visit to Indiana was a fast-paced, offense-oriented game, so conserving some extra energy certainly shouldn’t hurt Saturday night.

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