PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Joel Embiid had 23 points and 14 rebounds to help the Philadelphia 76ers pull away from the Charlotte Hornets down the stretch in a 110-99 victory on Friday night.
The Sixers won their 13th straight game at the Wells Fargo Center and looked strong in the fourth quarter on the second night of a back-to-back. JJ Redick and newly signed Ersan Ilyasova scored clutch buckets in the final minutes to continue the Sixers' late charge up the East standings.
The Sixers were coming off an impressive 108-97 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night that ended an 11-game losing streak against the Eastern Conference champions. Coach Brett Brown said playing the second of a back-to-back at home against a Hornets team badly in need of victories would be a nice test for the Sixers as they inch closer to their first playoff berth since 2012.
"We're closer than we've ever been to achieving a pretty significant goal. We don't feel like we're there at all, and I don't see complacency creeping in there," he said. "We're playing a team in desperation mode."
Led by Kemba Walker and Frank Kaminsky, the determined Hornets charged to a 14-point lead and seemed poised to snatch a needed road win.
The 76ers stole the win right back.
Dario Saric and Ilyasova hit consecutive 3-pointers for a 91-89 lead in the fourth that sent a stout crowd that had trudged through a storm to get to the Wells Fargo Center into a frenzy. Ilyasova signed this week for a second stint with the Sixers and gives them needed depth in their playoff pursuit. He scored 18 points and should shore up a weak bench.
The "Trust the Process!" chants rang out in the final minute and the Sixers - who won just 10 games in 2015-16 - just might make some noise in the playoffs.
The only thing that could derail the Sixers at this point would be a serious injury to Embiid or Rookie of the Year candidate Ben Simmons.
Embiid, playing with four fouls, crashed to the court on a hard foul in the third and instantly grabbed his lower back. Embiid was slow to rise but did and made two free throws. He brushed off his discomfort and stormed down the court on the next possession for a bucket that cut the Sixers' deficit to 80-74 through three.
Walker scored 31 points and Kaminsky 19 for the Hornets. Nicolas Batum had 14 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists.
The Hornets entered four games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and still need to leap Detroit to reach eighth. They completely unraveled in the fourth and coach Steve Clifford was hit with a technical foul in the final seconds.
While Embiid dominated, the Hornets got nothing out of the big man matchup from Dwight Howard. Howard picked up three fouls in the first quarter and played only 10 minutes for the half. He heard one of the loudest ovations of the night when he clanged two consecutive free throws in the third quarter and earned fans a free dessert from a fast-food joint.
Hornets: F Cody Zeller sat out with a sore left knee and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist returned after he missed a game with a sore hamstring. ... The Hornets need to make a playoff push at Philly's expense: Charlotte and the Sixers played for the first of four times over the next month. The Sixers play Thursday and April 1 in Charlotte, with one more in Philly on March 19.
Sixers: Brown said reaction to Saric's dunk in the closing seconds in the win over the Cavs was "overblown." ''It was not meant to be done disrespectfully," Brown said. ... Team owner Josh Harris was linked to the White House this week when it was reported he met multiple times with Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of President Donald Trump. Of Harris' connection to the White House, Brown said, "I haven't given it one bit of thought."
Clifford compared Simmons' size and athleticism to a young LeBron James. Simmons and James are friends and the two embraced following Philadelphia's win over the Cavs.
"His ability to get the ball going toward the basket into the paint, and then deliver really any pass, which was LeBron's big strength also when he was younger," Clifford said.
Hornets: Play Sunday at Toronto.
Sixers: Play Sunday at Milwaukee.