The Philadelphia 76ers hoped to be peaking as they head closer to the start of the playoffs.
Instead, they’re careening in the opposite direction.
The Sixers bid to avoid a fourth consecutive loss on Saturday afternoon when they host the Charlotte Hornets.
After falling to the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia (46-30) dropped a 102-94 decision on the road against the Detroit Pistons Thursday. The troubling fact was how the Sixers were blown out down the stretch by a 21-win team.
Joel Embiid produced 37 points and 15 rebounds, but it was far from enough as the Sixers’ bench players struggled mightily.
“At halftime, we were shooting 42 percent and I just thought the fouls bailed us out. We were awful in the first half, too,” Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said. “I just thought we played with very little life tonight, didn’t play together tonight at all. That’s something we’ve been doing so it’s just one of those nights. Tough one.”
For a franchise with championship aspirations, it was a maddening sign to fall apart in the fourth quarter against a team headed for the NBA Lottery.
“We still are really working on the chemistry,” Embiid said. “We’re working on the spacing, where everybody should be at, and it’s a work in progress. We don’t have a lot of time, but that’s why we have shootaround and practices every day to try and get on the same page. But hopefully by the time the playoffs roll around, we’ll know what to do.”
The Hornets will look to strengthen their playoff position when they visit the Sixers.
Charlotte (40-37) officially qualified for the play-in tournament for the second consecutive season following Wednesday’s 125-114 win on the road against the New York Knicks.
Miles Bridges led the way with 31 points, Kelly Oubre Jr. added 21 and LaMelo Ball continued his stellar all-around play with 20 points, 15 assists and five rebounds.
With five regular-season games remaining, the Hornets are far from satisfied.
“We can’t be content — we haven’t done (anything),” Oubre said. “So we’ve got to continue to work, stay humble and continue to grind and create our own narrative for the future and establish ourselves in an area for sure that is in the winning light. So we’ve got to continue to stay hungry and stay humble.”
The Hornets have been inconsistent all season, but they’re now healthy and surging toward the postseason.
Yet they’re not exactly exhilarated.
“That came from the players,” Hornets coach James Borrego said of the mood in the locker room after solidifying a playoff berth.
“They want more. Obviously, I want more for them. But it’s got to come from them. We’re not done. We want more. We are not satisfied with being in a play-in position here. We want to climb. We want to get better. We want to build momentum. So that’s the goal right now.”