It seems like just Saturday that the Charlotte Hornets were in Philadelphia. Oh… Wait…
Philadelphia hosted Charlotte in the second game of a homestand on Monday night. The 5-1 Sixers started fast Saturday night against a younger and smaller Charlotte. Monday night, Philadelphia attacked the rim early but shot poorly. The 2-4 Hornets looked better Monday after the loss in the opening game. Philadelphia worked their gameplan to near perfection in the first half en-route to 73 points. The second half was a mishmash of frenetic pressure from Charlotte and loose play from the 76ers. The Sixers turned the ball over 16 times in the second half Saturday. Miraculously, and Defensively, they managed to maintain a lead and took the game 127-112.
Taking Care of the Ball
Speaking of the second half turnovers against the Hornets full-court pressure, both Doc Rivers and Ben Simmons said a combination of Hornets pressure and sloppy offensive play by the team. Simmons said the team is learning to “take each play at a time and take care of the ball.” Simmons then pointed to the development as a team “You know we’re learning. I think everybody’s taking responsibility to hold each other accountable attend to that, make sure we take care of the ball and take it play by play.”
Rivers agreed that it was a combination but added, “We got away with it, but you don’t get away with that every night”. Rivers cited several 2 on 1 and 3 on 1s that resulted in turnovers leading to transition threes by the Hornets.
Tobias Harris Eastern Conference player of the Week
Monday afternoon Tobias Harris was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week. Per team release, it’s Harris’ third career Player of the Week selection and first with the 76ers.
Harris led the 76ers to a 3-0 week, with wins over Toronto, Orlando, and Charlotte, scoring 20-or-more points in each outing. Over the three-game span, Harris connected on .571 (28-49) of his field-goal attempts and .563 (9-16) of his three-point tries while averaging 23.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per contest. He was one of six NBA players to hold such averages for the week, posting the group’s best three-point percentage.
Harris has been a target of frustration for Sixers fans who look at his contract. Objectively, however, his production under Doc Rivers has been outstanding. Harris has thrived with rivers dating back to his time with the Los Angeles Clippers. Harris is likely benefitting from the gravity and attention teammates Joel Embiid, and Seth Curry provide.
The 76ers plan of attack versus the Hornets pressure Monday came in the form of Ben Simmons attacking the rim relentlessly. Simmons attacked the paint and the 76ers played inside out to create open threes from penetration. The early results were often off target, but the lack of turnovers and solid defense kept the game close. The quality of shots was consistently excellent.
In the second quarter, shots started to fall, and the Sixers burst to a 15 point lead at the half, 58-43.
I could make a real argument that the Sixers just played a better half than Saturday's 73 point first half. Just 4 turnovers, forced 11 Charlotte turnovers and created really good looks.— J Blevins (@JBlevinsNBA) January 5, 2021
Like, really good looks. pic.twitter.com/3pFCSvw07v
Desperately, Charlotte returned to press and trapping in the third quarter. The Sixers handled the pressure again much better finishing the third with just 7 turnovers. As the fourth quarter unfolded, Philadelphia consistently broke the trap and got good looks at the rim, or from three.
After a Tyrese Maxey steal and slam, the lead eclipsed 20 for the first time with just under 9 minutes to play. Dwight Howard controlled the glass and played solid defense, allowing Embiid to sit the final 16 minutes of the game. Embiid played just 24 minutes but continued his excellent passing from Saturday night out of the post and finished with 4 assists, but could have easily had 7 or more if shots had fallen.
The Sixers bench continued to show its strength, as Maxey and Milton played an excellent fourth quarter. Maxey in particular evoked shades of De’Aaron Fox with a full-court speed that caught the Hornets off guard. Maxey scored in double figures including 2 triples and multiple finishes at the rim. Pretty much the perfect game from the team’s third or fourth option at point guard. Maxey is earning more minutes seemingly with every shift on the floor.
Ultimately, when the Hornets trap and press were unable to force the 76ers to go on tilt, they didn’t have a plan B. The Sixers’ depth and experience resulted in a workmanlike second half and a second easy victory, 118-101. The Sixers are now 6-1 and remain undefeated when Joel Embiid plays. They lead the Eastern Conference Standings and have the NBA’s best record.
So entering Monday, the expectation was that Charlotte would keep the pressure up starting from the opening tip. You rarely have a mid-season opportunity to have a day off between facing the same opponent. The team at the Painted Lines Youtube Channel previewed the game and commented live all Monday evening.