The Philadelphia 76ers return home Sunday looking to end a three-game losing skid when the Charlotte Hornets visit.
Philadelphia lost the final three in a four-game, Western Conference swing, the first half of which they played without Joel Embiid. The All-Star center, who served a two-game suspension for fighting with Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns on Oct. 30, missed his team’s one-point win at Portland and a five-point loss in Phoenix.
The 76ers lost guard Ben Simmons to a shoulder injury in the road trip’s third game, a 106-104 loss at Utah. Then in the finale in Denver on Friday, Philadelphia squandered a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost 100-97.
“We had a lot of turnovers, missed free throws,” Embiid told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Our fourth-quarter offense wasn’t the same as the third.”
Philadelphia scored just 13 fourth-quarter points, while struggling to slow the Nuggets on the other end. Rookie defensive stopper Matisse Thybulle, who has two games with four steals this season, did not play.
“I wanted to go with Trey (Burke),” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said in his postgame press conference. “I wanted to give him an opportunity. … Sometimes rookies go through a little bit of a patch.”
Brown’s backcourt rotation with Simmons again scratched due to the shoulder injury could shape Sunday’s matchup. Raul Neto made his first start in Simmons’ absence, but Burke and Furkan Korkmaz have received the majority of reserve minutes among the 76ers guards with 18 and 20.5 per game.
Before its current losing skid, Philadelphia was the NBA’s last remaining undefeated team. The 76ers are undefeated at Wells Fargo Arena, but have played at home just twice. Their last time in Philadelphia was the night Embiid earned his suspension. Veteran big man Al Horford had his first, and thus far only, double-double of the season in the 117-95 win with 12 points and 16 rebounds.
Horford hit a season-high 32 points in the loss at Phoenix, but managed just seven and eight points in the final two games of the Western road trip.
Charlotte comes in on the second leg of a back-to-back, dropping a 115-110 decision on Saturday to New Orleans.
The Hornets have endured ups and downs to start their 2019-20 season, going on a three-game losing streak after winning their opener. They then won three straight, but visit Philadelphia losers of two straight.
Devonte’ Graham scored 24 points and dished 10 assists in Saturday’s loss. Graham leads the Hornets in scoring at 17.8 per game, despite coming off the bench for all nine games.
Asked during the week about Graham perhaps becoming a starter, coach James Borrego, “Not right now.” Thus far, Charlotte’s had success using the second-year guard from Kansas off the bench, and playing in a reserve role has not impacted his minutes. Graham’s 31 per game are fourth-most among all Hornets.
Charlotte’s backcourt also features veteran point guard Terry Rozier, acquired in the offseason trade that sent All-Star Kemba Walker to Boston. Rozier was instrumental in the Celtics ousting Philadelphia from the 2018 playoffs, averaging 19 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game in the 4-1 Boston series win.
–Field Level Media