Ben Simmons put on a clinic with 20 points, 15 assists, eight rebounds, three steals and two blocks to lift the Philadelphia 76ers to their 10th straight win, 119-102 Sunday over the host Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center.
Marco Belinelli added a team-best 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting off the bench for the Sixers, who completed the four-game sweep of the season series with Charlotte and are now tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers for third in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs host the Dallas Mavericks at 6 p.m.
It’s the Sixers’ first 10-game win streak since they started the season 10-0 in 2000-01, when they went to the NBA Finals.
Philadelphia was playing without both Joel Embiid (eye) and Dario Saric (elbow, not considered serious), but Simmons was once again simply spectacular. Early in the first quarter, he inbounded to himself the ball off Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s back and scored. Simmons finished the second quarter by taking a steal in for a reverse slam and entered halftime with 10 points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals.
He either scored or assisted on the Sixers’ final 21 points of the first half, and Philadelphia entered the third quarter leading 60-51.
“I think his growth is certainly expedited when he looks over and our All-Star isn’t there, and Dario,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “Ben, all over the place, his presence, his disposition, and lately even more his voice I think reeks of leadership. Real positive trends.
“The combination of just some body language, using his voice, getting us organized offensively, picking apart a gym with his assists — elite stuff.”
Early in the third, Simmons found JJ Redick for a 3-pointer that put the Sixers up 13. The Hornets used a 16-4 spurt to get within 72-71, but Simmons threw a crosscourt laser to a streaking Robert Covington for a layup, lobbed an inbound pass to Covington for a jam and then took an alley-oop from T.J. McConnell for a reverse slam to cap a 14-0 run.
Ersan Ilyasova, who started for Saric, and Redick hit consecutive threes early in the fourth quarter to give the Sixers their largest lead, 100-80.
Redick also had 20 points, including five 3-pointers, and Ilyasova had 16.
Starting for Embiid, veteran Amir Johnson did a nice job on Dwight Howard, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Kemba Walker was held to 10 points on 2-for-7 shooting.
Kidd-Gilchrist and Malik Monk each led Charlotte with 16 points.
With 36 assists, the Sixers now have at least 30 in their last nine games, becoming just the fourth team in league history to record such a streak. Charlotte (13 in 1989), Boston (10 in 1972) and Golden State (10 in 2016) are the others.
Covington, who had 17 points, had five of his seven steals in the first half. Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams (seven) and New Orleans Pelicans big man DeMarcus Cousins (six) are the only players with more steals in a half this season.
Embiid missed his second game since suffering a fractured orbital bone last week against the New York Knicks. He underwent surgery Saturday, and there no timetable for his return. Philadelphia is 5-8 without Embiid this season.
“We gotta buy time for Joel. We really have to buy time for Joel,” Brown said. “We owe it to him to do whatever we can to let him play with his team, our team, again. We see the path to doing that is fighting like heck to get home-court advantage. We feel like we can control our own destiny if we’re able to do that, which allows us to give ourselves a chance to reintroduce him to the team.”
Both teams play again on Tuesday. The Sixers host the Brooklyn Nets, and the Hornets are in Chicago to face the Bulls.
—Field Level Media