It's suddenly all fun and games at the Wells Fargo Center for the 76ers.
They extended their home winning streak to four games Saturday night with an 89-81 victory over the hot Charlotte Hornets.
The Sixers (12-40) turned the game around during a 13-minute, 29-second stretch over the second and third quarters. After trailing by 46-30 with 3 minutes, 33 seconds to go before intermission, they outscored the Hornets by 40-11 to take a commanding, 70-57 lead with 2:01 left in the third quarter.
"I think we went on a 12-2 run and then kept our momentum going in maybe our best period of the season," coach Brett Brown said of outscoring the Hornets by 28-13 in the third quarter. "The third quarter was exceptional [for us] on both sides."
The Sixers' dominance was aided by the departure of Charlotte's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with a strained right hamstring with 5:24 left in the second quarter. At the time, the Hornets had a nine-point cushion.
The Somerdale native will have an MRI on Sunday and isn't expected to play before the NBA all-star break. The Hornets (22-28) are 11-24 without him the last two seasons. Kidd-Gilchrist finished with five points.
Robert Covington scored 22 points - including 19 after intermission - to lead the Sixers to their fourth victory in seven games. The 6-foot-9 swingman made 5 of 10 shots to go with eight rebounds.
"You just see what goes on when you have somebody that can make the long ball," Brown said. "And he did it by himself. Really he just took the space that was given to him and hurt them."
Reserve guard Hollis Thompson (18 points), power forward Luc Mbah a Moute (13 points, 7 rebounds), and center Nerlens Noel (12 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks) were the Sixers' other double-digit scorers.
Point guard Tim Frazier finished with a team-high eight assists in his first start after signing a 10-day contract on Thursday. The former Penn State standout was held scoreless on 0-for-7 shooting while taking over for Michael Carter-Williams, who was sidelined for the second straight game with a strained big toe on his right foot.
The Hornets came into the matchup as one of the NBA's hottest teams. They had the league's fourth-best record since Jan. 1, going 12-4.
On Saturday, center Al Jefferson paced Charlotte with 18 points. Former Episcopal Academy standout Gerald Henderson added 17 points. The shooting guard also had a game-high nine assists.
"My coaching staff puts [this victory as the] best of the year," Brown said. "I think under the circumstances, without [Carter-Williams] and [with Frazier] . . . you are playing a team that has won 12 of the past 15 games, you could argue that this is our best win of the year."
But a lot of the focus was on the Sixers' standout who didn't play. The team originally said that Carter-Williams had a sore right foot. An MRI exam revealed that it was actually a big-toe strain.
"We are going to personally put him through some tests [on Sunday] to best assess it," Brown said.
This is Carter-Williams' third ailment in about a week.
The 6-foot-6, 195-pounder injured his left ankle in the third quarter at the Atlanta Hawks on Jan. 31. He returned after going to the locker room to get his ankle retaped. Then he didn't play from the 7:31 mark of the third quarter of Monday's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers with a left-shin contusion.
Carter-Williams said he suffered the toe Tuesday against the Denver Nuggets.
"I'm getting all banged up," Carter-Williams said. "It's just a little bit unlucky. . . . My leg being hurt a little bit and trying to play through that [hurt] my foot. I put too much pressure on it."
Being injured is nothing new to the reigning rookie of the year.
He missed the entire preseason and first seven games of the regular season after right-shoulder injury. Then he was sidelined against the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 3 with right-shoulder soreness. And he missed the New Orleans Pelicans matchup on Jan. 26 with an upper-respiratory infection.
Carter-Williams also missed several games last season with ailments.
The Sixers, however, don't think he's injury-prone.
"I think he's had some bad luck," Brown said. "I know what goes on in our locker room and some individual private meetings. I'm looking across at a player who's growing.
"He's growing in navigating NBA game plans in his skill package and, most importantly, his toughness and his leadership."