CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The 76ers really needed to win this game — perhaps more so than any of their recent ones.
That's because the Sixers had lost seven of their last nine road games heading into Tuesday's game against the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center.
Thanks to a balanced attack, the Sixers ended their road woes, at least for the moment. They had seven double-figure scorers in a 128-114 victory.
The Sixers won hours after coach Brett Brown acknowledged that sidelined rookie Markelle Fultz's three-point shot has improved. However, Brown would say only that the team was having "internal discussions" on the matter when asked if there was a cutoff date for bringing Fultz back this season. Tuesday marked the 58th straight game Fultz was sidelined for what the team called right shoulder rehabilitation.
But the point guard had the yips, losing the shooting form and long-range touch he displayed in his lone season at Washington and during summer league. Brown had said that Fultz would not play until his shot passed the eye test.
"I think he's getting better," Brown said. "I think it looks like it's getting more comfortable."
Meanwhile, the Eastern Conference's sixth-place Sixers (35-28) went on to get a much-needed road win in the Queen City. This should give them a confidence boost even though it came against the Hornets (28-37), losers of four straight games.
"Part of growing a young team … is how do you win on the road," Brown said. "It's difficult in the NBA. But you have to win on the road. You have to learn how to win on the road."
The Sixers shot a season-high 57.5 percent from the field, including going 16 of 33 (48.5 percent) on three-pointers. They also made 12 of 15 (80 percent) foul shots. And the Sixers had 35 assists on 50 made baskets. Their assist total was one shy of their season high, set Nov. 1 against the Atlanta Hawks.
Robert Covington, who didn't attempt a shot in the first quarter, had 22 points while making 5 of 9 three-pointers. This was the small forward's highest-scoring game since he had 25 points on Dec. 2.
"My teammates found me in a different aspect of the game," said Covington, who was the team's postgame bell ringer. "Everybody was talking about my first shot [attempt] didn't come until the second [quarter.] But we were clicking in different cylinders. So regardless of how many shots or when my first shot came, it didn't matter."
Dario Saric added 19 points and made 4 of 7 threes. Ben Simmons recorded his 25th double-double with 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting to go with 13 assists and eight rebounds.
Joel Embiid (18 points), JJ Redick (14) and reserves Marco Belinelli (11) and Ersan Ilyasova (11) were the team's other double-digit scorers.
"I said this at halftime," Redick said, "but I think it was as good as we've played in a while in terms of body movement and ball movement, the combination of both."
Covington excelled as a two-way player on this night.
He was the primary defender on Charlotte all-star point guard Kemba Walker, who was held to a season-low five points on 1-for-9 shooting, while missing all five of his three-pointers. The seventh-year veteran came in averaging 23.2 points. This marked the first time since Dec. 18 that he failed to score at least 12 points.
Charlotte center Dwight Howard finished with a game-high 30 points and six rebounds.
This game had its frustrating moments for players.
Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was tossed with 3 minutes, 52 seconds left in the first half after receiving two technical fouls. Howard and Embiid also received technical fouls for voicing displeasure to officials.
Kidd-Gilchrist, a native of Somerdale, Camden County, was upset that the referees didn't call foul on Ilyasova. The Sixers reserve power forward knocked Kidd-Gilchrist to the court while defending his shot. He got up and approached the referee underneath the basket to voice his displeasure after no foul was called. The referee gave him a technical foul for yelling and walked away. Kidd-Gilchrist followed him and continued yapping. At that time, another referee gave him his second technical, disqualifying him from the game.
He finished with five points, two rebounds, and one assist in 14 minutes.
Before the game, a lot of attention was centered on Fultz. The 19-year-old was making three-pointers in the morning shootaround. Then he showed some explosiveness on dunks and jumpers during his workout before the game.
Brown wouldn't say when or if he's playing. "It's all internal discussions we're going through right now and just trying to accurately assess his situation," the coach said.
The Sixers do not make Fultz available to the media, and Brown did not initially appear comfortable addressing his situation. But the coach did acknowledge that he's happy for the rookie for showing improvement.
"We all can kind of guess what his world might look like," Brown said. "He's such good people and to find like hints of success in relation to he's improving and he sees it, that's where my heart is.
"I think the questions everybody is asking are fair and there are some good signs."
Sixers vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley is a candidate for the Hornets' vacant general manager position.