This was a nice bounce-back game for the 76ers.

They followed up Thursday’s dismal performance against the Detroit Pistons with Saturday’s scintillating 144-114 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.

The blowout win at the Wells Fargo Center improved the Sixers’ record to 47-30 and snapped their three-game skid. They’re on the brink of clinching their fifth straight postseason berth. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ 119-101 victory over the New York Knicks denied the Sixers the opportunity to clinch on Saturday. One has to assume the Sixers could clinch the playoff nod with a win over the Cavs on Sunday evening at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

The fourth-place Sixers and 2 ½ games behind the first-place Miami with five games remaining.

They broke the game open in the third quarter, outscoring the Hornets, 45-27. The 45 points tied for the second-most points the Sixers have posted in a quarter this season. They had a season-high 47 in the third quarter vs. the Orlando Magic on Jan. 19.

The Sixers went into the fourth quarter with commanding, 103-80, advantage. They went on to lead by as many as 35 points.

James Harden said the Sixers’ pace the was the difference in the third quarter.

“I’m not the fastest guy, so I try to advance the ball as much as I can,” he said. “Tyrese [Maxey] and Tobias [Harris] allow our playmakers to push the tempo a little more ... because of that, we got the shots that we really wanted.

“We have to do that more consistently.”

The Sixers also benefitted from shooting 60.9 % from the field Saturday, including making 21 of 43 three-point shots. The 21 makes tied a franchise record. And the shooting percentage was aided by their 38 assists on 53 baskets.

“We know how good we can be,” Joel Embiid said. “It’s all about doing it every single night. I had a lot of fun playing tonight, and that’s the way we should be playing every night, just sharing the ball, moving, playing with pace, pushing the ball in transition.

“Our defense was pretty good. So we shouldn’t be doing this after a bad loss. We should do it every night.”

The Sixers lacked ball movement and struggled to make stop in Thursday’s 102-94 road loss to the struggling Pistons.

On Saturday, Embiid finished with 29 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists while sitting out the fourth quarter. Harris added 23 points while making 5 of 9 three-pointers. Harden had 12 points, a game-high 13 assists, and nine rebounds in just three quarters of action. Matisse Thybulle (12 points and 3 steals) joined Embiid and Harden as starters to sit out the fourth quarter.

Maxey (19 points) and reserves Georges Niang (10) and Shake Milton (10) were the Sixers’ other double-digit scorers.

But Harden, who took 10 shots (made four), appeared back in his comfort zone, being more of a distributor than someone hunting for his own shot. The Sixers wanted him to be more aggressive in regard to looking for his own shot recently. Harden, who’s overcoming left hamstring soreness, kind of struggled in that role.

Harden was more of the distributor in a lot of the games in which the Sixers had success.

“It makes my job a lot easier when [Maxey] and Tobias are aggressive,” Harden said. “We know what Joe’s going to go every night. But when Tyrese and Tobias are aggressive and they’re efficient and being aggressive and attacking the rim and knocking down shots, you know I get the rest. I’ll take whatever the rest is.

“Like I said, it’s possession by possession, game by game. Some games I need to be a little more aggressive. But with all that said, I think when all of us are playing well together and on the same page, we got a very, very good chance to win.”

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Harden’s play

It’s no secret that Harden’s numbers were in decline over the last six games, especially in fourth quarters. Doc Rivers addressed that before the game.

“I just think our pace is slower, you know,” he said. “We gotta get back to playing at the pace we were playing at the beginning. We’ve had a couple of sprinkle-in games where we do that. But there are things that we can do.

“But his numbers are not going to be like his numbers in Houston, because he’s playing with a pretty good player [in MVP candidate Joel Embiid].. So those types of numbers I would never compare him to or anybody to.”

Rivers had mentioned having a similar situation when he coached the Boston Celtics to the 2008 NBA title. Back then, future Hall of Famers Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett had their numbers take a bit of a hit while playing together.

“Everyone was getting on Ray and Kevin at the beginning of the year, saying they’re not scoring the same,” Rivers said. “I said, ‘Well, yeah, they have to split the ball between three guys now.

“With James, he’s probably getting used to that a little bit as well.”

But, for Harden, it’s not just about sacrificing his game . The perennial All-NBA selection has been struggling to produce in the clutch. He made just 4 of 18 shots in the fourth quarters of his previous six games.

He scored two points on 1-for-2 shooting against the Hornets in the first quarter Saturday. However, he went on miss three of four shots in the second quarter and had just 5 points at intermission.

Harden started to find his groove in the third quarter with seven points on 2-for-4 shooting, including a three and a pair of free throws. But he was at his best as a facilitator, dishing out six assists and was a plus-21 in the quarter.

Miles Bridges paced the Hornets (40-38) with 20 points and five rebounds. They’ve lost two of their last three games after winning seven of eight.