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Joel Embiid powers Philadelphia 76ers to third consecutive win

By
Gordie Jones, The Sports Xchange

PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia 76ers rookie center Joel Embiid mimicked the water-spitting routine of his favorite WWE performer, Triple H, when he was introduced before Friday's game against the Charlotte Hornets.

Embiid and his teammates then body-slammed the Hornets, 102-93.

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Embiid collected 24 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots, and the Philadelphia defense limited the Hornets to 32.9-percent shooting -- just a tick above Charlotte's season low of 32.7 percent -- while forcing 19 turnovers, the visitors' season high.

The victory was the third straight and fifth in six games for Philadelphia (11-25), and Embiid continues to talk playoffs. His teammates appear to be buying in as well.

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"I think we can beat damn near any team, playing like this," said backup center Nerlens Noel, who contributed six points and four blocks in 20 minutes.

Dario Saric added 15 points for the Sixers, who overcame 23 turnovers of their own. Ersan Ilyasova finished with 12 points, while Robert Covington and Sergio Rodriguez had 11 apiece.

Embiid, however, remains the focal point. The Sixers continue to tout him for the All-Star team, and he has done his part on social media, tweeting that a berth would help him earn a date with recording artist Rihanna.

His play remains the biggest thing, however. He has exceeded the 20-point mark in eight straight games while playing fewer than 30 minutes in each of them, as the team continues to limit him to 28 a night after he missed his first two seasons following a pair of foot surgeries.

According to Elias, he is the first player with a streak of that length since that organization began tracking minutes in 1951-52.

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"He certainly has the whole package," Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. "Size. Energy. He's quick. He's strong. And he's brought an energy to his teammates that has changed them, the way they're playing."

The Sixers have been one of the feeblest teams in the league the last three-plus years, in part while they awaited Embiid, the third pick in the 2014 draft, to regain his health.

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"I've been trying to change the culture," he said. "I think people are starting to see that. We're winning games, and the way people view the Sixers, that changes."

Nic Batum, back after missing the two previous games with a hyperextended right knee, had 19 points to pace Charlotte, which lost for the sixth time in seven games to fall to the .500 mark (20-20).

Kemba Walker had 17 points, but shot just 7-for-23 from the floor. Cody Zeller chipped in 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 12 points and 12 boards.

The Sixers never trailed, and matched their biggest lead of the night when they went up 88-75 on Covington's 3-pointer with 9:02 left. The Hornets crept within six at 97-91 with just over a minute left but could draw no closer.

The Sixers moved to a 32-21 lead early in the second quarter behind 10 points from Embiid and some stout defense. Charlotte went 7:49 without a field goal in one stretch.

The Hornets later cut the gap to a point, but by halftime, the Sixers were ahead 52-45.

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Embiid finished the half with 12 points and Saric collected nine points and six rebounds.

Batum had 11 points to pace the Hornets, who shot just 28.9 percent from the floor in the first two quarters.

Charlotte scored the first seven points of the second half to draw even, but the Sixers answered with a 17-4 rush that included 3-pointers from Nik Stauskas, Covington and Ilyasova to go up 69-56.

The Hornets continued their push after Embiid went to the bench with four fouls with 5:15 left in the quarter. Walker notched nine points in the quarter, including a layup with 11 seconds left that cut the gap to 74-71.

Noel nailed a jumper with less than a second left in the quarter, triggering a 14-4 rush that left the Sixers with an 88-75 cushion.

NOTES: Charlotte G Jeremy Lamb was not with the team because of a metatarsal inflammation. ... The Sixers plan to rest C Joel Embiid when they play in Washington on Saturday night. That means C Jahlil Okafor, who has been held out of the last four games, will see extensive action. Coach Brett Brown praised Okafor for his professionalism, even as his minutes have dwindled. "He has been unbelievable, really," Brown said. "You want to talk about a young man going through a life lesson. This is it, and a blueprint for many, many other young people in the league: How do you handle adversity? Your star's not shining at the moment, and how do you deal with it?" ... Earlier in the day, Philadelphia sent F Richaun Holmes to its NBA Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers.

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