Sixers hold off Hornets, snap losing streak behind Joel Embiid’s dominant night
Joel Embiid finished with 27 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks after being cleared to play.
The 76ers got back to winning basketball games.
Joel Embiid finished with 27 points and a game-high 14 rebounds as his team defeated the Charlotte Hornets, 105-103, Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
The victory, which wasn't decided until the final second, improved the Sixers to 3-3 and snapped their two-game losing streak.
Kemba Walker, who had a game-high 37 points, pulled the Hornets (3-4) within 105-103 with 2.6 seconds left. Walker made two of three foul shots after being fouled by Ben Simmons while attempting a three-pointer.
On the ensuing possession, Robert Covington received the inbounds pass, ran toward the Hornets' paint and threw the ball in the air as time expired.
Walker needed 31 shots, missing 20 of them, including shooting just 3-for-15 from three. He did finish with a game-high six assists to go with two blocks and made 12 of 14 foul shots. However, the 6-foot-1 guard had a tough time shooting over the 6-9 Covington, who was mostly guarding him.
Walker made just four of 16 shots after intermission.
"I thought it was Cov's best game of the year," coach Brett Brown said the 2017-18 first-team NBA all-defensive selection. "He ended up being our bell ringer."
Covington (18 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks, two steals) had his first double-double of the season. His biggest points came on a three-pointer that put the Sixers up, 105-101, with 1 minutes, 44 seconds left.
The team's defense, which has been its Achilles heel, held the Hornets to 29.8 percent shooting (14 of 47) in the second half. Charlotte only made 3 of 18 three-pointers (16.7 percent) the last two quarters.
The defensive effort was vital for the Sixers, who also had a tough time making shots (28.9 percent) after intermission.
"The second half, we did a better job of guarding our own man, collectively," Embiid said. "That's a good sign."
In addition to Embiid's double-double, the center had two blocks and two assists in a game in which he was cleared to play in right before tipoff.
The All-Star rolled his left ankle at the conclusion of Friday's practice. He tested out the ankle during pregame warmups.
Brown said team doctors felt the injury wasn't as severe as originally expected.
That was good for the Sixers. The game marked the fifth straight time that he has scored at least 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. He has recorded a double-double in all six games.
"I felt OK," Embiid said. "Obviously, I felt a little heavier today as far as my balance and the way I move. But I was fine. I played [36 minutes, 46 seconds] and I'm good."
Simmons had his worst shooting game of the season. The Sixers point guard finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds, but made just five of 20 shots. He gave his performance a D grade.
"Maybe I was forcing it," Simmons said. "I feel like I got to the rim multiple times. I obviously didn't get the result I wanted. But I think the officiating was great."
Charlotte was physical with him when he drove, forcing him to take some tough shots.
JJ Redick added 15 points with nine coming in the fourth quarter.
Redick hit a three-pointer with 2:03 remaining to give the Sixers a 102-99 advantage. After Walker closed the gap to one point, Covington drained his fourth three-pointer of the game to put the Sixers up, 105-101, with 1:44 to play.
Walker then closed the gap to two points in the closing seconds.
The former Connecticut standout came into the game fourth in the league in scoring at 30.8 points per game.
But the Sixers have a history of shutting Walker down. Last season, he made just one of nine shots en route to scoring just five points on March 6. The Bronx native later had 10 points on 2-for-7 shooting on April 1. The Sixers won both games.
But on Saturday night, Walker opened the game by making four of his first six shots en route to scoring 11 first-quarter points.
However, the Sixers still managed to lead, 32-28, heading into the second quarter. The Sixers clung to a 63-62 advantage at intermission before the Hornets took an 85-83 lead into the fourth.