Instant Observations: Embiid, Harris Help Sixers Roll Past Hornets, Extend Winning Streak to Seven Games

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) brings the ball up the court during the first half against the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Westerholt-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers cruised to a 121-82 win on the road over the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night. Joel Embiid continued his dominant play, finishing with 38 points (16-of-21 shooting), 13 rebounds, five assists and four blocks despite not playing in the fourth quarter.

James Harden recorded his fifth triple-double of the season. He finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and three steals. Tobias Harris added in 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting to go with five rebounds. Jalen McDaniels missed his second consecutive game with a right hip contusion. Keith Pompey of the Inquirer reported from the team’s morning shootaround McDaniels said the injury is still noticeably impacting his ability to play with physicality.

The Hornets were led by Terry Rozier, who finished with 14 points, two rebounds, four assists and three steals. Charlotte was without LaMelo Ball (right ankle surgery), Cody Martin (left knee soreness) and Mark Williams (right thumb sprain).

The Sixers are on a seven-game winning streak. They take on the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night. Here are some instant observations from the win:

– It took a few minutes for Embiid and the Sixers to wake up, but once they did the results were exceptional. Embiid missed three of his first four shots of the night, but things opened up for him beginning with a pair of and-one layups over Nick Richards. The second one was a circus shot, a reverse layup where he was not even looking at the basket when he put the shot up.

Embiid scored 12 points and grabbed four rebounds in the first quarter alone. Once he got going, it became clear the Hornets had no answer for him, especially inside the paint. Nine of his 10 made field goals in the first half came from in the paint. His chemistry with Harden shined in the second quarter, with multiple of his buckets coming out of the pick-and-roll. Harden was ice cold as a scorer, but he still impacted the game by efficiently running the offense. The duo also connected on a play that should make some highlight reels over the weekend. Embiid slammed down a monster dunk off a between-the-legs pass from Harden.

Embiid’s offensive performance was superhuman, something fans have come to expect from the big fella. He scored in a variety of ways, punishing the Hornets with physicality in the paint and also connecting on mid-range jumpers. He also continued to do an excellent job defensively, blocking a plethora of shots against the Hornets. The most impressive of which was a clean block of a Kai Jones dunk attempt in the third quarter.

Embiid is putting together dominant two-way performances night in and night out. He is playing at the highest level of his career, which is saying something considering what he has done in previous seasons.

– Harris, in the middle of a brutal stretch of basketball, had his best performance of the last few weeks (maybe even the last few months as well). The Sixers made a concerted effort to get him involved in the opening minutes. They twice attempted to get him the ball in deep post position, but the Hornets blew up the entry pass. Once he was able to get the ball, he did some good things. Harris connected on his first two shots, a 3-pointer while coming around a screen and a layup over Kelly Oubre Jr. However, he committed two early fouls and had to check out of the game just over four minutes into the action.

On multiple fronts offensively, Harris showed some positive signs of breaking out of his slump. He made quick decisions, especially on catch-and-shoot attempts from 3-point range. He consistently got to his spots and was looking to attack from the opening tip. Having Harris get back to his play from earlier in the season can go a long way towards helping raise the team’s postseason ceiling.

– The Sixers’ defense in the first quarter left a lot to be desired. They did not stop ball penetration, often looking a step slow. Rozier’s hot start, scoring 10 points in the opening quarter, added to the Sixers’ defensive struggles. They coughed up 29 first-quarter points to the Hornets, and it was shaping up to be a frustrating night.

However, they completely flipped a switch, locking things down defensively and playing with a lot of intensity on that end of the floor. Embiid and Paul Reed (more on him below) did a tremendous job defending the rim. It helped that the Hornets went completely ice cold from the field, finishing the game shooting 5-of-35 from beyond the arc. The Sixers held the Hornets to just 53 points in the final three quarters of action. Their defensive inconsistency can be maddening at times, but over and over again they have shown their capability when fully locked in.

– The Sixers received a ton of production from all throughout their second unit. Shake Milton continues to take advantage of any opportunity given to him. He had a good mixture of attacking the basket and playing out on the perimeter. He finished with an efficient 12 points to go with four rebounds and two assists.

The highlight of the second unit’s performance came from Reed. He grabbed 10 rebounds in just 12 minutes of action. Six of those rebounds came on the offensive glass. He was in peak form, disrupting things and playing with a ton of energy on both ends of the floor. In addition to his work on the glass, he finished with eight points and three blocks.

The Sixers were able to rest all of the starters for much of the fourth quarter. This allowed players like Danuel House Jr, Furkan Korkmaz, Jaden Springer and Dewayne Dedmon to get some run. It was important to get the starters some extra rest since this game was the front half of a back-to-back.