Philadelphia (38-30) are comfortably inside the top eight in the Eastern Conference, entering this game in sixth and 8.5 games better than ninth-place Detroit. The 76ers, who have not been to the postseason since 2012, are just 1.5 games back of Cleveland for third in the conference, which would carry home-court advantage in the first round.
The Sixers completed a sweep of New York City area teams, following up their 118-110 road win over the Knicks with a 120-116 triumph at home over Brooklyn on Friday night. Joel Embiid shook off a six-for-23 shooting night by hitting all 11 of his free throws and finished with 24 points and a career-high 19 rebounds ahead of his 24th birthday.
Ben Simmons finished two rebounds shy of a triple-double with 21 points and 12 assists, while J. J. Redick contributed 23 points while hitting three of six from beyond the arc. Philadelphia connected on 12 of 27 from 3-point range and have made 38.6 percent of their shots from deep in winning 12 of their last 13 at home.
Charlotte’s playoff chances right now exist only mathematically as they are seven games behind Miami with 12 to play. The Hornets (30-40) are 1-2 on their five-game road trip after being blasted 124-101 at New York on Saturday night. Rookie Dwayne Bacon scored 15 points off the bench to lead six players in double figures, but the Hornets were overwhelmed in the third quarter, getting outscored 42-17.
The Hornets have allowed 100 or more points in their last 14 games and in 29 of their 34 road games. Charlotte have dropped eight of their last 11 on the road, yielding 113.6 points per game as opponents have made 40.3 percent of their shots and 49.3 percent overall.
Three keys to the game
Redick keeps racking up the 3s - He sometimes gets lost in the shuffle given Embiid's dominance inside and Simmons' silky style directing the offense, but Redick has stepped up his game of late. He is shooting 41.4 percent from 3-point range on the season, but that number has jumped to 49.2 percent in his last ten games while making 29 of 59.
In the three home games in that stretch, Redick has made nine of 15 from deep and has connected on 44.0 percent of his 3-point shots at Wells Fargo Center overall.
Kupchak yet to be contacted by Hornets about GM position - Hornets owner Michael Jordan and vice-chairman Curtis Polk have been interviewing candidates for the vacant general manager position after firing Rich Cho in February. One name bandied about is former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, who was fired in February 2017 and has a history with Jordan dating back to their North Carolina days. Kupchak, though, told the Charlotte Observer the Hornets have yet to contact him, and the team still has other candidates they want to interview.
Sixers look for fifth straight win over Hornets - While it will not complete a season sweep since the teams meet again in Charlotte on April 1, Philadelphia are looking for a fifth straight victory in the series, which would be the longest since a six-game run from January 27, 2012, to March 30, 2013.
Matchup to watch
C Dwight Howard vs C Joel Embiid - Only one player has appeared in all 70 games for the Hornets, and that is the veteran center Dwight Howard, who is still proving his worth as he ranks fourth in the league with 43 double-doubles. He did not post one in either of the first two games between the teams, but did have 30 points in the March 6 loss.
Embiid had 23 and 15 rebounds in the first game before a more pedestrian 18 and four in the most recent matchup. Still, Embiid's ability to drag Howard out of the low post because he can make 15-footers gives the 76ers pivot an advantage because that also allows driving angles for Simmons into the lane.
Charlotte Hornets projected starting lineup
PG - Kemba Walker | SG - Nicolas Batum | C - Dwight Howard | SF - Michael Kidd-Gilchrist | PF - Marvin Williams
Philadelphia 76ers projected starting lineup
PG - Ben Simmons | SG - J. J. Redick | C - Joel Embiid | SF - Robert Covington | PF - Dario Saric
Walker has run hot or cold against the Sixers this season, and the Hornets are hoping the Walker that played in Philadelphia returns for this contest. He had 31 points and five assists in that game while making 11 of 21 shots compared to the loss at home in which Walker had five points and seven assists while missing eight of nine from the floor.
He has averaged 19.2 points and 5.4 assists in 21 career matchups with Philadelphia, hitting 35.5 percent of his 3-point shots.
Howard carries a streak of four double-doubles into this contest, in which he has averaged 24.8 points, 12.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks while making 38 of 64 shots (59.4 percent). Overall, Howard has posted 32 double-doubles in 43 career matchups with the 76ers, totaling 17.6 points and 13.0 rebounds per game while shooting 58.6 percent.
Howard had four 20-20 games among those 32 double-doubles.
Simmons has created all sorts of issues in the two wins over the Hornets, shooting 14 of 19 while totaling 31 points, 20 assists and 16 rebounds. The rookie has committed just four turnovers in 67 minutes spanning those two games.
Redick has found seams in Charlotte's defense, going five of nine from 3-point range and scoring 32 points in the two wins. He has averaged 10.8 points in 33 career matchups with the Hornets, but his 36.7 percent shooting from 3-point range is tied for his third-worst against any opponent.
The 76ers are eight-point favorites, with the line shifting one-half point in their favor since opening. Philadelphia have been strong for bettors at home, covering in ten of their last 13 there and posting an 8-1 record against the spread in their last nine when facing teams who have a losing road record.
The Sixers, though, have covered in one of their last five overall and once in their last five versus conference rivals. Philadelphia has covered in the last four meetings between the teams.
Charlotte have covered just twice in their last seven outings against Eastern Conference opponents and are 4-10-1 against the number in their last 15 games when facing a team with a winning record. The Hornets have also covered just twice in their last ten games following a loss against the spread.
The over/under has inched higher one-half point to 223, and the teams are trending in opposite directions. The over has hit in Charlotte's last six games overall, their last four against conference rivals and in five of their last seven on the road.
The under has hit in nine of Philadelphia's last 11 against teams with sub-.500 records and in four of their last five against Southeast Division teams.
After a back-and-forth fourth quarter Friday night against the Nets, 76ers coach Brett Brown offered a vote of confidence to his team, telling the 76ers official website, "I feel like schematically we all feel comfortable as a team that we can walk a game down and those guys last night and tonight did that."
It was the kind of victory the 76ers needed, not to feel good about themselves, but to serve as a reminder of the little things they have to do against the league's lesser teams to see out making the playoffs. This game is another such challenge on that path.
For the 76ers, this is about fine-tuning, especially on the offensive end as Simmons breaks down defenses and finds his spot shooters Redick, Dario Saric and Robert Covington while Embiid does his thing in the low post.
The Hornets are finding out the hard way they are in NBA limbo. They are not good enough to make the playoffs but not bad enough where they can tank and vie for one of the top three picks without a whole lot of luck. They have professionals in Walker and Howard, an above-average player in Batum, but they lack a superstar. That is a problem in today's NBA.
Look for Philadelphia to make quick work of the Hornets and post a 108-91 victory.
The game will be televised locally on NBC Sports Philadelphia and Fox Sports Southeast - Charlotte. It also will be televised nationally in Canada on NBA TV. Tip-off time is 7 pm EDT.
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