Seth Curry lofted a poor second-quarter pass to Joel Embiid, who initially corralled the ball before allowing it to slip from his grasp. Charlotte’s Terry Rozier found Gordon Hayward for the breakaway finish, two of the Hornets’ 12 consecutive points that helped them take a comfortable lead into the locker room.

That highlight — or lowlight — sequence defined the Sixers’ 109-98 loss Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center, which snapped their seven-game winning streak in a defeat marred by 17 uncharacteristic turnovers that the Hornets turned into 23 points.

“We were so sloppy that anybody would have gotten turnovers against us tonight,” said Sixers coach Doc Rivers. “I thought the ball stuck. We’ve been so good overall at moving the ball and I just thought tonight we didn’t do that. The ball stuck on every possession. We rarely got it from side to side.

“It was just really disappointing. We were flat tonight. That happens, but you should still play right. I just didn’t think we played right tonight. … We just broke a lot of rules.”

The Sixers (23-17) entered Wednesday with the third-fewest turnovers in the NBA (12.3 per game) while running an offense that had hummed well during their three-week surge. The pesky Hornets, however, entered the night as the NBA’s fifth-best team at taking the ball away from their opponent (15.4 per game) and the third-best in scoring off those miscues (19 points per game).

That aggressive defensive style is a reason Rivers called the Hornets “the Memphis of the East, in some ways,” a reference to an up-and-coming Grizzlies team that is on a 10-game winning streak.

“They had a mental edge on us tonight,” Rivers said. “You could feel it. They took that game as ‘We need to win this game,’ and we didn’t respond to that challenge.”

It was the Sixers’ first double-digit loss since a 35-point defeat in Memphis on Dec. 13, a game played without Embiid. After falling behind by 20 points early in the third quarter, the Sixers created some third-quarter momentum with a 15-2 run capped by a Curry pull-up three-pointer in transition to cut the Hornets’ lead to 72-65. Yet Charlotte quickly pushed that lead back up to double digits, then answered any remaining mini Sixers run.

After a Furkan Korkmaz three-pointer got the Sixers within 85-79 in the fourth quarter’s opening minute, Cody Martin hit a three-pointer off an offensive rebound and LaMelo Ball’s floater bounced in to push the Hornets’ lead back to 90-79. Following a Tobias Harris a three-pointer to reduce Charlotte’s advantage to 88-96 with about five minutes to play, Rozier responded with his own triple and Miles Bridges added with a corner three and alley-oop dunk.

The Hornets also got a monster performance from Gordon Hayward, who finished with 30 points on 13-of-16 shooting and six assists. Rivers said the Sixers routinely bit on Hayward’s pump fakes and did not properly close out on the All-Star forward, flying right by him instead of contesting the shot.

“It’s not like it wasn’t on the film,” Rivers said, “but he kept doing it.”

Another 30 for Embiid

Embiid continues to put himself in elite company, finishing with 31 points to notch his eighth consecutive game scoring at least 30 or more. But it was a much bigger struggle to reach that benchmark, and Embiid was critical of his outing.

“It starts with me,” he said. “I wasn’t good enough today.”

After going 13-of-13 from the free-throw line during Monday’s win at Houston, he missed four out of his 14 attempts Wednesday (the Sixers went 18-of-28 as a team). He also committed seven of the Sixers’ 17 turnovers. Three of those were offensive fouls, two in the first quarter and one in the third period’s opening minute that he acknowledged quelled his aggressiveness, “especially” on the defensive end.

“I’m just not at my best‚ and I don’t think anybody’s at their best when they have two fouls in the first quarter,” Embiid said. “You don’t want to be in a situation where you pick up three fouls. ... Even offensively, with those offensive fouls, I didn’t want to lower my shoulder, because the ones that were called, I didn’t understand it.”

After picking up those two early offensive fouls, though, Embiid immediately responded by hitting a three-pointer, a baseline floater and a driving finish. Later, he buried a tough turnaround during the last minute of the second quarter. He was also instrumental in the Sixers’ third-quarter rally, finishing through contact on a put-back and a dunk to help cut into the Hornets’ big lead.

He surpassed 30 points on a dunk with less than two minutes remaining, but the Sixers still trailed by 10.

Maxey’s mixed return

Starting point guard Tyrese Maxey put together an uneven performance in his return from a four-game absence while in COVID-19 health and safety protocols. He finished with 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting, 3 rebounds and 3 assists.

He caught rhythm late in the first quarter, when he found Danny Green for a transition three-pointer before hitting a pull-up jumper and step-back three-pointer right before the buzzer to give the Sixers a 35-34 lead.

Maxey then missed five of his six shots in the second quarter, including a finger roll that barely fell off the rim. He did not attempt a shot in the third quarter and missed all three of his shots in the fourth, including a three-pointer from the top of the key with his team trailing by 11 about midway through the period.

“You can’t simulate playing basketball games in workouts,” Maxey said of his time away.

A bright spot for Maxey: He was not responsible for any of the Sixers’ turnovers.

Maxey, a film junkie, said he will first study some of his defensive lapses, including a layup he gave up to Rozier and a transition bucket Ball scored on him.

“Then you break down the offensive clips,” Maxey said.

Rotations, rotations

While backup point guard Shake Milton remained out with a back contusion, this was the closest the Sixers have had to their full rotation available at the start of a game in quite some time.

Green and Korkmaz were the Sixers’ first subs, replacing Maxey and Matisse Thybulle. With about four minutes to play in the first, Georges Niang came in for Harris. Andre Drummond replaced Embiid about a minute after that, before Maxey re-entered for Curry with less than two minutes to play.

In the second quarter, Maxey and Harris anchored one lineup before the Embiid, Curry and Thybulle returned about midway through the period.

But the move toward normalcy was short-lived when Green went down in the second quarter with a hip injury. He briefly returned in the third quarter but was quickly replaced by Korkmaz. Isaiah Joe then checked in for the first time late in the period.

“I just knew he couldn’t move,” Rivers said of Green’s injury.

Niang also briefly stayed in the game after picking up his fourth and fifth fouls in rapid succession in the third, before Harris replaced him. For a significant stretch in the fourth quarter, Rivers again turned to the extra-big lineup with Embiid and Drummond sharing the floor together for the first time since the second half of last week’s win in Orlando.

“We were awful and let’s try something,” Rivers said of returning to the Embiid-Drummond pairing. “It’s part of what you do as a coach. You try to shake it up and see if we can get something. Actually, it looked OK for us. Defensively, we got some stops and rebounds.

“But it’s one of those nights; nothing was going, and you try to just throw stuff in.”