PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid had 14 points and 11 rebounds, Tobias Harris scored 22 points and the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Charlotte Hornets 118-101 on Monday night for their fourth straight win.
The Sixers swept the two-game set necessitated on the schedule this season because of the pandemic and beat the Hornets for the 13th straight time. Philadelphia has not lost to Charlotte since Nov. 2, 2016.
Embiid has been the biggest reason the Sixers are off to a 6-1 start in coach Doc Rivers’ first season. Perhaps motived by the birth of his son, reinvigorated under a new coaching staff or both, the 26-year-old has seemingly harnessed his talent and developed into a workload-heavy force on both sides off the ball.
Gone are the the days when Embiid’s minutes were limited because of injuries — Sixers fans still cringe at “load management” — and he needed to sit out just one game of a back-to-back set to rest up. Embiid entered Monday night averaging 33.4 minutes (and 25.0 points), the most on the Sixers.
“He can handle it,” Rivers said before the game. “I think he played the other night almost 37, I didn’t like that, but that’s going to happen. You go through the year and it evens out, that 34, 33. I don’t really have a minutes barometer, I just know where I’d like to keep it.”
Embiid added a personal chef, nutritionist, physical therapist and massage therapist — making $29.5 million this season, he can afford the staff — to help turn those flashes of greatness into a sustained MVP campaign.
Want rim protection? Embiid can do it. Gordon Hayward learned on a drive late in the third when he saw Embiid’s outstretched arm and tossed a wild shot high above the rectangle. Embiid grabbed one of his 10 defensive boards.
Also in the third, Embiid ran straight into a double team out on the wing. He didn’t force his way into making a play that wasn’t there — he kicked it to Seth Curry for a wide open 3 and a 61-45 lead. Embiid has learned to pass out double teams and finished with just one turnover.
Embiid even hit a little fadeaway in the third as the Sixers turned this one into a rout and he got his rest at just 25 minutes
Ben Simmons made a behind-the-back pass to Embiid on the break for a bucket. But it’s some of the little things that are making Embiid perhaps the best big man in the NBA.
Simmons was steady with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Danny Green hit three 3s for 13 points.
Hayward had 18 points and struggling Devonte’ Graham added 15 for the Hornets, who also lost Saturday in Philly 127-112.
Hornets: C Cody Zeller still hasn’t been cleared to use his left hand in shooting drills after breaking his ring finger in the season opener. The Hornets hope Zeller can return in early February.
76ers: Harris was named Eastern Conference player of the week, averaging 23.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists over three games. … Team owner Josh Harris sat courtside and chatted with decision makers Daryl Morey and Elton Brand. … Embiid had kept his girlfriend’s pregnancy a secret and they surprised almost everyone when he announced in late September their son Arthur Elijah De Paula Embiid was born.
Hornets: Play Wednesday at Atlanta
76ers: Host the Wizards on Tuesday in a rematch of the 76ers’ 113-107 opening-night victory.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports