Embiid leads 76ers to another close win over Hornets

Philadelphia outscored Charlotte 13-8 in the final three minutes of action

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) is fouled while attempting to dunk over Charlotte Hornets guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Matt Kelley)

CHARLOTTE — Two days after defeating the Hornets by three points in overtime thanks to a 43-point night, Joel Embiid used a 32-point performance on Wednesday to guide the Philadelphia 76ers past Charlotte once again.

The Hornets (14-13) held a 98-97 edge with three minutes left in the fourth quarter before the Sixers (14-11) closed out their 110-106 road victory with six late points by Embiid, including a contested 3-point shot in overtime that put his team up by five.

Charlotte has dropped five of its last six games, and the Hornets have been without at least four players in three of this games due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. 

Starters LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier and Mason Plumlee are currently on that list of inactive players. 

The situation has forced Hornets coach James Borrego to shake up his usual lineups and for players such as Gordon Hayward to take more of a leading role in the offensive game plan — the small forward scored a season-high 31 points along with five rebounds and seven assists while knocking down nine of his 10 shots from the foul line. 

“I think we’re giving it our all but came up short again tonight,” Hayward said. “We did a good job battling but had too many turnovers, and we left a lot on the transition points. If we clean that up we win this game, but that’s how it is — it was a tough one.”

The former Butler star said that he went into the game with an “aggressive mindset” and wanted to take shots early and often in order to shake off the rust from his shooting performance on Monday, when he was 5 of 19 in a loss at Philadelphia.

Kelly Oubre and Miles Bridges joined Hayward in providing the bulk of the Hornets’ scoring during Wednesday’s matchup. Fresh off a 35-point showing, Oubre turned in 22 points with 10 rebounds. Bridges was 8 of 13 from the field with 20 points, five rebounds and five assists. 

“The game got stagnant,” Bridges said of his team’s offensive skid in the final minutes of the night. “Every time they (Sixers) came down they were shooting free throws, so it was tough for us to get in a rhythm with so many free throws and fouls called.”

Philadelphia was 25 of 30 from the charity stripe — led by Embiid’s 19 attempts — while Charlotte was 18 of 21. 

“There were 19 free throws for Embiid and 19 turnovers for the Hornets. That was the game,” Borrego said. 

For the Sixers, Embiid got help on offense from Seth Curry and Tobias Harris. Curry had eight assists to go with his 4-of-8 3-point shooting effort, while Hattis provided six rebounds and a 7-of-15 shooting night. 

Cody Martin notched 12 points, five rebounds and three steals for the Hornets. 

The Sacramento Kings (10-14) will travel to Charlotte on Friday for a 7 p.m. matchup that marks the second meeting between the teams. Back on Nov. 5, the Kings handed the Hornets a 140-110 loss in what still stands as Charlotte’s largest margin of defeat this season.