The teams traded baskets with Joel Embiid predictably doing most of the damage for the 76ers while Gordon Hayward went bucket for bucket with him. The Hornets defensively drew two early offensive fouls on Embiid, both of which took a nice little bit of acting. Hayward ended up with 15 points in the opening frame, and that helped carry the Hornets to a 34 point first quarter, though they still trailed by one thanks to six made threes in the quarter from the 76ers.
It took nearly three minutes for either team to make a basket. The Hornets shot mostly threes in that stretch, and despite several offensive rebounds leading to multiple chances, they failed to convert. Terry Rozier finally broke the seal with a layup where he may or may not have traveled, but he got the benefit of the doubt and got the foul call to boot. Danny Green left early in the quarter with a leg injury after Miles Bridges swatted away a layup attempt. The Hornets struggled to get a good offensive rhythm against the 76ers half court defense, but they made up for that by getting out and running off 76ers missed shots and turnovers. That strong defense and fast pace of play helped them to an 18-4 run to close the half, which gave them a 64-50 lead at the break. Hayward finished the half with 22 points on 9-of-9 shooting from the field.
The Hornets scored six straight to start the second half to build their lead up to 20, though Hayward finally missed a shot during the run. The Hornets went cold after that, making just one shot in nearly five minutes of play. The 76ers took advantage of the third quarter ice age and cut the deficit down within a couple of possessions. Embiid started getting his touches and got to the free throw line as part of the comeback. The Hornets countered the 76ers slow, gradual climb back into the game with an 8-0 spurt in a matter of about a minute and a half to build their lead back up to 16. The 76ers scored six straight out an ensuing timeout to make it a nine point game heading into the fourth.
The teams traded baskets for the first several minutes the fourth quarter in what was a throwback, slow paced affair. The 76ers even went full 90s for a spell with Joel Embiid and Andre Drummond on the court together. The teams played to a relative stalemate with 76ers using their big lineup, which is considerably more impressive when accounting for the fact that the Hornets were using PJ Washington with five fouls as center.
The Hornets took a timeout with an eight point lead with 5:08 to play. Terry Rozier and Miles Bridges sandwiched a pair of Embiid free throws with 3-pointers to extend the lead. Bridges 3-pointer was the first of three straight buckets for him. Embiid answered each one, but he ground down most of the shot clock to manufacture each look. The 76ers eventually ran out of time as the Hornets cruised to an 11-point victory.
Hayward kept the Hornets offense afloat when the rest of the team was struggling. Eventually the rest of the Hornets caught up, and Hayward took a little bit more of a backseat. As Hayward said in his postgame interview with Ashley ShahAhmadi, the Hornets defense was the story of the ballgame. They held the 76ers under 100 points and made life difficult for Joel Embiid. He got his numbers, but the Hornets made him earn it. PJ Washington played more tremendous fourth quarter defense on an elite big. He had a few deflections and even if he let Embiid score, he forced him to use the entire shot clock, which bled away the clock and prevented a 76ers comeback.
The Hornets will take their Eastern Conference-leading four game winning streak home to take on the Magic on Friday.