Joel Embiid repeatedly stepped to the free-throw line with one thought in mind during critical moments of the Philadelphia 76ers’ overtime victory against the Charlotte Hornets.
“Got to make them,” Embiid said. “They call me ‘clutch’ for a reason, so got to make them.”
Embiid was 14-for-16 from the line between the fourth quarter and overtime to help ice the 76ers’ 133-132 victory Friday night. He had 42 points and 18 rebounds.
The Hornets fought back from a 21-point deficit and led by five with 1:18 remaining in regulation before the Sixers forced extra time. Kemba Walker scored 19 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter for the Hornets.
Embiid challenged Charlotte’s defense as they attempted a comeback victory and focused on drawing contact. Hornets starting center Cody Zeller fouled out in regulation after committing five fouls in the fourth.
“It’s tough keeping him off the free-throw line just because he is so physical,” Zeller said. “He can shoot it from three, play off the dribble, he’s obviously a wide body in the post, so those are the toughest guys to defend that can play kind of play at every spot on the court.”
Embiid thrives on getting to the line where he is shooting 81.8 percent, up from 76.9 percent last season. He has earned the confidence of the Sixers to aggressively seek out shots there.
“He’s a really good shooter anyways and he’s confident by nature, so that’s a pretty good collision of skill and mind,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “You trust him going to the line and shooting a high percentage. He’s not afraid of the moment.”
Embiid’s execution down the stretch left the Hornets searching for answers on defense.
“I thought our bigs were great,” Charlotte coach James Borrego said. “They battled him. I thought they were fantastic defensively. They tried to beat him to spots. I don’t know what to tell them when Embiid shoots 16 free throws in the fourth quarter and overtime, I don’t know what to say to them.”
To Embiid, the abundance of free-throw attempts were all in a day’s work.
“That’s my job,” he said. “I’ve got to step up when there’s an opportunity.”
The Sixers improved to 7-0 at the Wells Fargo Center, the most home wins to start the season since 2002-03.
Pacers 110, Heat 102
In Miami, Victor Oladipo had 22 points and 10 assists, Bojan Bogdanovic put Indiana ahead to stay on a 3-pointer with just under a minute remaining and Indiana defeated the hosts.
Domantas Sabonis and Darren Collison each scored 17 points, and Bogdanovic had 16 to help the Pacers snap a two-game slide. The Pacers outscored Miami 16-2 in the final 3:31.
Kelly Olynyk led the Heat with 20 points, but missed most of the fourth quarter with an injury. The Heat were again without Dwyane Wade, who’s excused while he and wife Gabrielle Union-Wade continue celebrating the birth earlier this week of their daughter.
Jazz 123, Celtics 115
In Salt Lake City, Joe Ingles matched his career high with 27 points and added a season-high seven assists to help Utah beat Boston in Gordon Hayward’s return to Utah.
Hayward had 13 points and seven assists in his first game back in Utah since leaving the Jazz in free agency after the 2016-17 season. He broke his left ankle last season in the opener.
Donovan Mitchell added 21 points for Utah, Jae Crowder had 20, and Rudy Gobert finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds.
Terry Rozier scored 22 points for the Celtics, while Tatum had 21.
Magic 117, Wizards 108
In Orlando, Nikola Vucevic had 21 points and 14 rebounds and D.J. Augustin came up with big plays in the final two minutes to help the hosts top Washington.
Augustin had six points, an assist and a steal after the Wizards cut a 25-point deficit to one at 106-105 with 2:30 remaining. Aaron Gordon added 20 points for Orlando, Evan Fournier and rookie Mo Bamba had 15 points each, and Augustin finished with 11.
Bradley Beal led Washington with 27 points. The Wizards fell to 2-9.
Pistons 124, Hawks 109
In Atlanta, Andre Drummond had 23 points and 11 rebounds, Stanley Johnson added a season-high 22 points and Detroit downed the Hawks.
In a game that was essentially decided in the first quarter, the Pistons were so dominant that they scored 74 points and led by 23 at halftime with Blake Griffin, the NBA’s fifth-leading scorer, 0-for-2 from the field. Drummond’s double-double was the 300th of his career, most in the league since his rookie season of 2012-13. Jeremy Lin had 19 points for Atlanta.
Nets 112, Nuggets 110
In Denve, Caris LeVert hit a floater in the lane with 0.3 seconds left and Brooklyn scored the last six points to beat the hosts.
The Nets overcame a big bounce-back night from Denver’s Nikola Jokic to win their third straight. Jokic had a season-high 37 points and tied his career best with 21 rebounds.
D’Angelo Russell led Brooklyn with 23 points.
Kings 121, Timberwolves 110
In Sacramento, Willie Cauley-Stein had 25 points, Nemanja Bjelica scored eight in a row during a big run late in the third quarter and the Kings whipped slumping Minnesota to spoil a huge game for Karl-Anthony Towns.
De’Aaron Fox added 16 points and 10 assists for Sacramento. Iman Shumpert scored 17 and Bjelica finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Coming off back-to-back losses to East powers Milwaukee and Toronto, the Kings led by 15 early in the fourth quarter but had to hold off a late surge by Minnesota to end a three-game losing streak to the Timberwolves.
Towns had a season-high 39 points and 19 rebounds on a night when Minnesota’s inconsistent offense sputtered much of the way.