Sixers aim for repeat performance in rematch with Hornets

National Sports

An encore might be worth it from an entertainment standpoint as the Philadelphia 76ers and Charlotte Hornets meet for the second time in three nights.

But there could be some parts that are difficult to repeat Wednesday night in Charlotte, N.C.

This is a rarity already with the 76ers staying in town for the rematch.

They can only hope Joel Embiid is as productive after his season-high 43 points in Monday night’s 127-124 overtime victory.

The Hornets are trying to recover from more than just the result. They were down five players because of COVID-19 protocols, so this is a taxing stretch. They’ll be in their third game in four nights.

The potential fatigue aside, just dealing with Embiid is enough of a challenge.

“The way that he impacts the game offensively,” teammate Tobias Harris said. “He’s a shot maker. He’s the guy that we go to when we need a bucket and he delivers for us. … We just rely heavily on his presence.”

But the toll on Embiid could be heavy. He logged 41 minutes in that game, pushing his team high season averages to 23.9 points and 11.3 rebounds per game.

Harris also played 41 minutes, notching 21 points and 11 rebounds. That would qualify as a grueling performance for Harris, who missed games earlier in the season because of COVID-19 protocols and then sat out the previous game Friday night because of illness.

“Obviously there has been ups and downs for me the past month,” said Harris, who’s the team’s second-leading scorer with 19.3 points per game.

The Hornets have played their past two games without starters LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier and Mason Plumlee, and reserve Jalen McDaniels. Then guard Ish Smith was added to the protocol list for Monday’s game.

Through it all, the Hornets found some positives. Nothing, though, that surprised coach James Borrego.

“Their spirit, their resiliency,” Borrego said. “But that’s who they are.”

The tricky part for the Hornets is at point guard. Ball, Rozier and Smith would normally be the first options at that position. That put Cody Martin into the role of more ball-handling duties.

It also might have signaled the emergence of James Bouknight and JT Thor, who scored 11 and eight points, respectively. They were pressed into higher-profile roles.

“Hopefully, that’s a boost of confidence for all of us, more so for them that they can play at this level and play at a high level,” Borrego said. “This is just the beginning. Now it’s about building on that and getting better on Wednesday night.”

Bouknight, a first-round selection in this year’s NBA draft, logged 22 minutes Monday after playing a total of 18 minutes all season.

Perhaps particularly because his team lost Monday, playing consecutive games against the same opponent in the same building is something Borrego sees as a bonus. He said in some ways it’s like a playoff set-up.

“A playoff-type atmosphere. Go back and make some adjustments, some tweaks,” Borrego said. “We just saw this team so see how we can get better. There’s going to be a lot of good teaching moments. … You get to execute against the same team.”

Meanwhile, 76ers guard Seth Curry, who’s playing in his hometown, will aim for a smoother outing in the second part of this set of games. He was just 3-for-11 from the field, including 0-for-6 on 3-pointers, for six points Monday night.

–Field Level Media

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