Charlotte Hornets' Cody Zeller (40) goes up for a dunk during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Tuesday, March 29, 2016, in Philadelphia. Matt Slocum AP
Charlotte Hornets' Cody Zeller (40) goes up for a dunk during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Tuesday, March 29, 2016, in Philadelphia. Matt Slocum AP

Charlotte Hornets

Hornets pound the ball inside for victory over 76ers

By Rick Bonnell

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.com

March 29, 2016 09:11 PM

UPDATED March 30, 2016 06:39 AM

PHILADELPHIA

Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford hasn’t always thought his team scored in the lane enough this season.

Tuesday it did, pummeling the shorthanded Philadelphia 76ers in the paint for a 100-85 victory at Wells Fargo Center.

This victory gets the Hornets ever closer to their third playoff berth since the NBA returned to Charlotte in 2004.

Small forward Nic Batum (19 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists) completed his second triple-double as a Hornet and center Cody Zeller had a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds.

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The Hornets have Wednesday and Thursday off before hosting the Sixers Friday at Time Warner Cable Arena.

[Box score: Hornets vs. 76ers]

Three who mattered

Batum: He completed his triple-double midway through the third quarter.

Zeller: He started off a perfect 7 of 7 from the field and 4 of 4 from the foul line.

Jorge Gutierrez: He did a decent job filling in as the backup point guard.

Observations

▪  Hornets guard Jeremy Lin missed the game with a sore lower back. He mentioned the injury at morning shootaround, but went through all the drills. It apparently worsened in the afternoon and he couldn’t loosen up pre-game. Clifford said he didn’t think this was something serious.

▪  With Lin out, Clifford moved third point guard Jorge Gutierrez into the rotation.

▪  The already shorthanded 76ers played without Nerlens Noel (knee contusion), Jerami Grant (knee and quad contusion) and Richaun Holmes (Achilles strain). All three are likely to also miss Friday’s game in Charlotte.

▪  The Hornets play just one game in four days before a challenging road trip to Cleveland, Toronto and New York.

▪  The Hornets played some zone in the second quarter, basically daring the Sixers to try to beat them from 3-point range.

Worth mentioning

▪ By midway through the second quarter, the Hornets had a 20-5 edge in points in the paint.

▪  At halftime Batum had seven points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

▪  The rebounding differential was massive at halftime: Hornets 36, Sixers 21.

Report card

B OFFENSE: The 3-point shooting was off, but they consistently pounded the ball inside.

A DEFENSE: The Sixers couldn’t penetrate much and the Hornets were dominant rebounding.

A COACHING: A couple of wrinkles by Clifford, including guarding Kendall Marshall with Frank Kaminsky.

Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell