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Hornets, Al Jefferson dominate Sixers, Jahlil Okafor

By John Delong, The Sports Xchange
Hornets, Al Jefferson dominate Sixers, Jahlil Okafor
Charlotte Hornets' Al Jefferson. Photo by John Angelillo/ UPI | License Photo

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Al Jefferson is accustomed to getting double-teamed, so it's a pleasant surprise when he gets a little room to operate in the low post.

That's what happened Friday night and Jefferson took advantage to lead the Charlotte Hornets to an easy 113-88 victory over the winless Philadelphia 76ers.

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The 12-year veteran got the best of Sixers rookie Jahlil Okafor early and often, and finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots. He scored 14 points in the first quarter, helping the Hornets take control immediately on a night when they never trailed and led by as many as 26.

Jefferson admitted he was happy to see single coverage for a change.

"That doesn't happen often at all," Jefferson said. "I'm surprised when I don't get double-teamed. I guess they think I've lost a step or something. But it's better for me when teams don't have a special defense or a double-team against me, obviously."

It was Jefferson's third double-double of the season.

"You could just tell right from the first that he felt good," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. "He was moving quickly. He was very agile. And when he's like that, he's hard to guard."

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For the Hornets (7-6), it was their second straight win and their fifth in the last seven games. It moved them above .500 for the first time all season - in fact, for the first time since opening night of the 2014-15.

"To get off to an 0-3 start and to keep fighting, with the schedule we've played, in and out, in and out, games every other day, and to go 5-2 in these last seven games is really impressive," Jefferson said. "It just shows how focused we are. Now we've just got to try to do a better job to stay above .500. The test is never over."

Guard Kemba Walker added 20 points for the Hornets. Forward Nicolas Batum scored 14, guard Jeremy Lamb scored 13, and forward Marvin Williams finished with 11 points and nine rebounds.

The Hornets shot 49.4 percent from the field, including 61.9 percent in the first quarter when they raced to a 30-19 lead. Charlotte led 62-41 at halftime.

The Hornets finished 12 of 25 from 3-point range, with Batum hitting three and Williams, Lamb and Walker hitting two apiece.

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"When the ball is moving and we're not turning it over, we're good," Clifford said. "In the first half, the ball was really moving. I don't know what the numbers were, but we had a lot of assists. We lost our way a little in the second half, but it was a really good first half."

The Sixers (0-13) whittled the margin down to 11 late in the third quarter, but even then the Hornets had things well under control.

Forward Nerlens Noel led the Sixers with 16 points and nine rebounds, guard Nik Stauskas scored 15, and forward Jerami Grant scored 12. Okafor had a night full of rookie mistakes and finished with 10 points and seven rebounds on 4-of-12 shooting.

"They (Charlotte) are a good team," Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "They have so much firepower now. They can really put points on the board quick. They have done a really good job of building the program with some key pieces around Al Jefferson, and they shoot it. They are really capable from the 3-point line."

Brown said that he continues to be pleased with the Sixers' attitude and work ethic.

"They give us their attitude and their effort, and I am with them unconditionally," Brown said. "They bust their tails. They are 20-year-old kids and I love coaching them. We are the youngest team in the history of the sport and we will move them forward."

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NOTES: The Hornets were without F P.J. Hairston (quad contusion) and F Cody Zeller (ankle). G Jeremy Lin got his first start of the season in their absence. ... The Hornets were playing the second game of a seven-game homestand that will stretch into December. They opened the stand with a 116-111 victory over Brooklyn on Wednesday. ... The Sixers were starting a six-game road trip. They'll go to Miami Saturday, with games at Minnesota, Boston, Houston and Memphis to follow. ... The Sixers lost their last 10 games last season and started 2014-15 at 0-17. The NBA record for most losses to open a season is 18, by the 2009 New Jersey Nets. ... This was a game of contrasts between the league leaders in fewest turnovers and most turnovers. The Hornets lead the league in fewest turnovers, averaging 11.7 per game, and committed 11 Friday. The Sixers were averaging a league-worst 19.1 and committed 18 Friday. ... The Hornets host Sacramento on Monday and Washington, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Golden State later during the home stand.

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