CHARLOTTE — The 76ers must be allergic to big leads.
They, once again, blew a double-digit lead. For the second straight night, Jimmy Butler enabled them to overcome it.
The swingman's three-pointer with 0.3 seconds left lifted the Sixers to a 122-119 overtime victory over the Charlotte Hornets Saturday night at the Spectrum Center. The play came 15.4 seconds after Butler blocked Hornets all-star Kemba Walker's 9-foot jumper and tapped the defensive rebound to teammate Wilson Chandler while going out of bounds.
"It's a shot that I work on a lot," Butler said of the game-winning 27-footer right in front of the Hornets bench. "I actually came over this morning and shot it about 50 times."
He was happy that his teammates and coaches had enough faith in him to take the final shot, just like did at the end of regulation.
"I'm just so happy, man, that it went in to tell you the truth," Butler said. "In my head, as much as I wanted the shot to go in to win the game, I also wanted it to go in because I didn't want Kemba to give me 70.
"I wanted it to stop at 60."
For most of the night, he had a tough time containing Walker. The point guard went for a career-high 60 points on the strength of making 21 of 34 shots from the field in 45 minutes, 23 seconds. Walker also had seven rebounds, four assists, four steals, and nine turnovers.
Butler said blocking Walker's shot with 15.7 seconds left stood out to him more than making the game-winning basket.
"I'm going to go with defense, because, obviously, I didn't play too great of it tonight," he said. "I mean 60 points on your head. That's a lot of points. Kudos to Kemba. I've been saying that since college."
The two squared off in the old Big East Conference. Walker was an all-American at Connecticut while Butler was an all-conference honorable mention at Marquette.
On this night, Butler had an off shooting performance, scoring 15 points, making four of 11 shots to go with three rebounds, four assists, two steals, two blocks and four turnovers. Nine of his points came in the fourth quarter and overtime session.
The Sixers (11-7) were able to overcome blowing a 17-point, second-quarter lead and Walker's dominance. The Hornets dropped to 7-8.
Joel Embiid paced the Sixers with 33 points and 11 rebounds. Ben Simmons added 23 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, while JJ Redick had 23 points.
Outcomes like this are why the Sixers traded for Butler in the blockbuster trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves. On Friday, he scored eight of his 28 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Sixers over the Utah Jazz.
With his squad down, 105-100, with 1:42 left in regulation, Walker scored the Hornets' next eight points, completing the run on a 26-foot three-point bank shot to give Charlotte a 108-107 lead with 45 seconds left.
Embiid hit a foul shot to knot the score at 108 with 35.4 seconds left. After a Walker turnover, the All-Star center made another pair of free throws to give the Sixers a 110-108 advantage. Walker answered with a pair of foul shots of his own to knot the score at 110 with 16.6 seconds left.
The Sixers had a chance to win in regulation, but Butler misfired on a 20-foot jumper right before the buzzer.
The teams went on to play through two more ties before Butler's heroics took over.
Early on, this game had all the signs of a Sixers blowout.
The Sixers made nine of their first 11 shots en route to taking a 20-11 lead. Overpowering the Hornets post players, Embiid scored 18 of his points on 7-of-9 shooting in the first quarter.
His eighth basket — a three-pointer — gave the Sixers a commanding 49-32 cushion with 9:28 left in the third quarter.
It was his only basket in four shot attempts in the second quarter. The Sixers' sizable lead shrunk to 63-56 at intermission. Then the Hornets opened the second half on a 12-3 run to take a 68-66 lead on Walker's three-pointer with 7:16 left in the third quarter.
Wilson Chandler didn't play in the first half due to being on a minutes restriction.
On Friday, Markelle Fultz displayed a new free-throw form as a way to eliminate his hitch. He patted the ball back and forth from the right hand to the left hand on the way up to shoot. His change confirmed that his shooting woes are mental.
"I mean anything where he's comfortable," Brown said before Saturday's game."The example for all of us is when you look at what influences it; if you look at Serge Ibaka, it's very similar."
The coach understands why people focus on Fultz's shooting form at the foul line since he's standing there all alone. The second-year guard double-clutched while attempting a pair of foul shots on Monday against the Miami Heat.
"It's easy to zoom in on all that," Brown said of the foul shots. "I'm still not doing back flips or over-analyzing it. I'm looking at other places that he's doing great with.
"But, to your question, I think he feels comfortable doing that. If that's kind of the base line, then so be it for him. We'll help him with that."