CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Charlotte Hornets' Al Jefferson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Cody Zeller were out. Jason Richardson, Isaiah Canaan, and Thomas Robinson didn't play for the 76ers. And Nerlens Noel, the Sixers' best player, suffered a game-ending cut to his right lower eyelid in the second quarter.
Saturday night's game at the Time Warner Cable Arena had a "who's who" of sidelined players. Perhaps to the dismay of the Sixers, Gerald Henderson remained in the game.
The former Episcopal Academy standout scored the go-ahead layup with 6 seconds left in the Hornets' 92-91 victory. Ish Smith had an opportunity to win the game for the Sixers. However, he misfired on his layup with 0.9 seconds left.
Noel's injury was the biggest news of the night.
He was hit in the face on an unsuccessful block attempt of Noah Vonleh's putback dunk with 7 minutes, 7 seconds to play before halftime. The 6-foot-11 power forward fell underneath the basket. Moments later, Noel was checked out on the bench before going to the locker room. He didn't return to the bench. The Sixers (18-59) are unsure about his status for Sunday's game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
The 20-year-old's eye was still swollen and his vision remained blurred after the game. He also had a little bit of blood covering the scratch in the corner of his eye.
"I'm all right," said Noel, who finished with two points, two rebounds, and a block in 10 minutes, 35 seconds. "It was right on my eyelid right under my eye. So I made sure I iced it up and made sure it didn't swell up [more] over my eye to cause me to lose sight."
However, he was initially alarmed.
Noel said his eye kept "ringing" and his contact lens fell out.
"And I remember touching my eye and it was bloody," he said. "I wasn't sure where the blood was coming from. . . . But it's better now."
The Sixers played stellar defense, recording a season-high 14 blocks and forcing 12 turnovers. However, they were unable to close out the game.
With the Sixers leading by 91-90 with 2:27 remaining, Smith missed three consecutive shots. He also misfired on a pair of foul shots with 10.6 seconds left. Those misses were costly.
After Charlotte (33-43) called a 20-second timeout, Henderson scored the go-ahead basket.
Smith had a chance to redeem himself, but he misfired on a floater that was rebounded by Henderson with 0.1 left.
"I just missed it," said Smith, who finished with 15 points on 6-for-20 shooting. "I don't know what it was. . . . That is the beauty of trying to figure it out.
"I think we played 47 minutes and 30 seconds of good basketball. [How to play] at the end is what takes you to a different level, closing out game and things like that. I didn't do that tonight."
Reserve point guard Canaan (sprained right foot) and reserve power forward Robinson (twisted left knee) missed the game with injuries. Both will also be sidelined against the Knicks. Richardson, a reserve shooting guard, was held out to rest and will play against the Knicks. With their absences, the Sixers finished the game with just nine available players.
Kemba Walker finished with a game-high 24 points. Henderson had seven points.
Race to the Bottom
The 76ers, Knicks, and Timberwolves are battling for the NBA's worst record and the best chance for the top pick in June's NBA draft. The Knicks host the Sixers on Sunday.
W L GB
Knicks 14 62 -
T'Wolves 16 60 2
76ers 18 59 31/2