By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
— CSN Philly (@CSNPhilly) February 14, 2017
Philadelphia 105, Charlotte 99 – Box Score
Speaking to the media after the Hornets’ most recent game, Nic Batum guaranteed that Charlotte would come out and win Monday night against the Sixers. But as TJ McConnell told Molly Sullivan after the game, “If you guarantee stuff, you better back it up.” While Batum and his Hornets teammates certainly didn’t fulfill his prophecy, the Sixers might be heading back up the standings and on the cusp of the playoff picture having won their 3rd straight game.
The Sixers led for the majority of the game, but really took control during the third quarter, when a 10-0 Philadelphia run turned a 4-point deficit into a 6-point advantage; Charlotte would never lead again. The catalyst during that stretch and the star of the night was Dario Saric. The Homie was all over the place: playing active defense, attacking the glass, and bringing his point forward skills to the forefront. This sequence where Saric shows good help defense awareness to come across and make the block, then leads the break himself and finds a trailing Robert Covington for three, is outstanding.
Dario Saric can do some stuff. pic.twitter.com/LelNa900WP
— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) February 14, 2017
On another fast break, Dario had a very slick feed to Richaun Holmes to earn Holmes a trip to the charity stripe. Saric’s final line was 18 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, and that 1 block. He is now tied for 2nd among rookies with 5 double-doubles, trailing only Joel Embiid. If Embiid continues to miss a significant amount of time with his knee injury, we could be looking at a different Sixer taking home the Rookie of the Year hardware.
Kemba Walker (29 points) did his best to drag the Hornets back into the game with a flurry of scoring late in the fourth quarter. However, the Sixers have the closer, Mr. Clutch TJ McConnell on their side. McConnell ended a long Sixers field goal drought with under 2 minutes, converting on one of his patented spin move and fadeaway 10-footers. TJ was solid as usual with 14 points and 7 assists on the evening.
The other standout performance for the Sixers came from Nerlens Noel, starting with Embiid injured and Jahlil Okafor was left at home to allow Bryan Colangelo to sift through trade offers. Noel showed off the best version of himself against Charlotte, accumulating 12 points on 5-6 shooting, 7 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks.
Noel was decisive and didn’t try to do too much offensively, and then defensively, he was all over the court. There was one play where he challenged a shooter out at the three-point line and after his man gave it up, Noel flashed back to the rim in an instant to deter a shot from going up there. The possession ended up with a Charlotte turnover.
The Sixers are now 11-7 on the season in games Jahlil Okafor does not play. Even with Embiid sidelined, Okafor’s absence allows them to forge a defensive identity that will keep them competitive most nights. When Embiid and Ben Simmons (eventually, although not right after the All-Star break as we hoped) return, things will get really fun. I guarantee it.