The 76ers, once again, produced in the clutch to nab a victory.
Led by Ben Simmons, they produced 13-0 run in the fourth quarter to defeat the Charlotte Hornets, 108-94, Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Sixers point guard assisted on the four made baskets before capping the run with a pair of foul shots.
Simmons finished with 11 points, 15 assists and 12 rebounds for his ninth triple-double of the season. The Australian also had zero turnovers in 33 minutes of action.
“That was probably the easiest triple-double I’ve had because they were hot. My teammates were hot,” he said. “Finding guys, if they are sagging off me, I’m just going to find my guy, set a screen. He’s wide-open.
“So the reason it seems easy for me is because they make it easy for me.”
Simmons added that coach Brett Brown put the right players around him to succeed.
That’s obvious, as reserve guard Marco Belinelli, who finished with 21 points while making 5 of 9 three-pointers, was the beneficiary of five of his assists. The Sixers signed him on Feb. 12 to add perimeter shooting.
But Simmons was productive before Belinelli arrived. This night marked the rookie’s 19th 10-assist game of the season, which passed Allen Iverson’s franchise rookie record.
Simmons also has the most 10-assist games by any league rookie since Washington point guard John Wall had 25 in 2010-11.
He moved ahead of Magic Johnson for the second most triple-doubles by a rookie when he posted his eighth against the New York Knicks on Thursday. Oscar Robertson produced a rookie-record 26 as a Cincinnati Royal during the 1960-61 season.
“It’s kind of surreal,” he said of being mentioned with all-time greats. “I think during the season it’s kind of hard to take it all in and accept what’s happening and appreciate it because so much is going on.
“We are worrying about playoffs and winning games. It’s surreal to hear things like that. But I have a long way to go.”
— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) March 20, 2018
However, he and Joel Embiid showed, once again, why they’re arguably the league’s top young tandem.
Embiid finished with a game-high 25 points to go with a career-high-tying 19 rebounds and four blocks. He did, however, have nine of the Sixers’ 15 turnovers.
Robert Covington added 18 points while making 4 of 9 three-pointers.
Kemba Walker paced the Hornets with 24 points.
Charlotte center Dwight Howard (10 points) basically blamed the loss on the officiating. He felt like the Sixers — in particular Embiid — received a lot of calls. Howard finished with five fouls in 28 minutes.
However, the Sixers were called for 22 personal fouls compared to 12 by the Hornets. Charlotte also was 24 for 30 from the foul line, while the Sixers made 6 of 8.
“I thought it was crap the whole night,” Howard said. “I thought the referees did a good job of trying to keep players out of the game. I don’t think it was fair calls all night. It’s not cool. I think that really got the momentum for the other team. The officiating hasn’t been that bad all year. So I was pretty upset about that.”
This marked the third straight time the Sixers (39-30) used a late run to win a game. It happened Friday against Brooklyn Nets and Thursday against the Knicks.
In the process, the Eastern Conference’s sixth-place team pulled within a half-game of the fifth-place Wizards with 13 games remaining.
Meanwhile, the Hornets (30-41) have lost two straight and eight of their last 10 games.
Ben Simmons has his 19th 10-assist game this season, passing Allen Iverson for the most by a rookie in 76ers history.
Simmons' 19 such games are the most by ANY rookie since John Wall (25) in 2010-11. pic.twitter.com/y0fgnOim7A
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 20, 2018
The Sixers went on to score their decisive points after the Hornets knotted the score at 88 on Malik Monk’s dunk with 6 minutes, 16 seconds remaining.
Belinelli started the Sixers’ 13-0 run with a jumper. Covington followed that up with a pair of three-pointers before Belinelli added one. Simmons assisted on all four shots before capping the run with a pair of foul shots with 3:42 left to make it a 101-88 game.
Not bad for a guy who played power forward in his lone season at Louisiana State.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Simmons responded, asked if he knew the transition would be this easy. “I knew I would be able to make plays. But I just wasn’t sure. I think it’s getting easier for me the more I play with these guys over time.”
The Sixers looked sluggish in the first half, trailing 56-49. However, things changed in the third quarter.
They took an 81-70 lead into the fourth quarter after outscoring the Hornets, 32-14, in the third quarter. The Sixers did that with a defensive effort that coach Brett Brown was proud of.
Charlotte made just 19 percent (4 of 21) of their shots in the quarter. Jeremy Lamb made 2 of 5. Walker hit 1 of 5, and Dwayne Bacon was 1 of 2. The rest of the squad went 0-for-9.
Meanwhile, the Sixers made 52.2 percent of their shots while going 7 of 14 on three-pointers in the quarter.
However, the Hornets opened the fourth quarter on an 18-7 run that tied the score at 88.
The Sixers finished with 30 assists on 42 made baskets. But Simmons was definitely the star of the night.
“I think people get caught up in how many points I score every game,” he said. “It’s not about that. It’s about the amount of points were are getting as a team and how many stops we get and how many points we allow the other team to get.
“People are always going to say I need to do certain things, but I know what I’m capable of and what I’m really good at.”