After an off weekend, the 12-11 Sixers will begin a mini-series Monday in Charlotte against the 14-11 Hornets.
Here’s three stroylines:
A night to build off of
The Sixers haven’t managed a winning streak since their six straight wins from October 28-to-November 6.
They have a golden opportunity to change that.
The Hornets will be without their typical starting backcourt of LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier, as well as Mason Plumlee and Jalen McDaniels. All four players are in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. The Sixers swept last year’s regular-season series during Ball’s Rookie of the Year season, 3-0.
Another reason for optimism is the Sixers’ win Friday night over the Atlanta Hawks. The team held Atlanta to nine fourth-quarter points and survived a potential Danilo Gallinari game-winner to escape with a very swell outcome. Momentum is interesting in the NBA, but it was the kind of game that can shoot a team in the right direction.
Tobias Harris has been upgraded to questionable, by the way, after missing the Hawks game with a non-COVID illness.
Smith vs. Maxey
The Hornets pulled off a win Sunday night over Atlanta without Ball, Rozier, Plumlee, and McDaniels. Their starting point guard was Ish Smith, an extraordinarily well-traveled veteran who stopped in Philadelphia during the Process years.
The 33-year-old posted 18 points, seven assists, and five rebounds.
He’ll be opposed by 21-year-old Tyrese Maxey, who’s not going to take Smith lightly.
Maxey and Smith matched up during the Sixers’ first-round playoff series win over the Washington Wizards. Expect the Sixers to encourage Maxey to seek his own shot Monday night against the 6-foot Smith.
Don’t take the Hornets lightly
The Sixers will be aware of Miles Bridges and Kelly Oubre Jr., a duo that combined for 60 points on 22-for-32 shooting Sunday.
Bridges has taken a big step forward in his fourth season, averaging 20.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists. Even this shorthanded version of the Hornets has players with explosive scoring capability. The team ranks fifth in offensive rating and 26th in defensive rating.
Charlotte’s game plan on Joel Embiid will probably have many double teams. Nick Richards has started two of the past three games, though he hasn’t exceeded seven minutes in any of them. PJ Washington is only 6-foot-7 but has mostly played at center.
Catch the game at 7:00pm ET live from the Spectrum Center on NBC Sports Philadelphia and listen on 97.5 The Fanatic.