76ers

Joel Embiid 'surprised' by amount of playing time in Sixers' opener

Joel Embiid 'surprised' by amount of playing time in Sixers' opener

WASHINGTON — In the end, Joel Embiid’s playing time was a non-issue.

After days of frustration leading up to opening night, Embiid played just three seconds shy of 27 minutes against the Wizards. That far surpassed the 16 minutes he anticipated a day earlier on Tuesday (see story)

“I was surprised,” Embiid said following the Sixers’ 120-115 loss on Wednesday night (see observations). “I was expecting way less than that, but it just shows you they trust me.”

Brett Brown had maintained Embiid’s minutes were going to be more flexible than last year and he wasn’t locked into a specific number by the medical staff. Initially, Brown projected Embiid would play somewhere in the teens, but the game presented an opportunity for him to log more. 

Embiid had played 21:38 through three quarters and it seemed, based on last season, he was done for the night. The coaching staff calculated Embiid had over 20 minutes to rest between the third and the fourth quarters, so Brown put him back into the game with just over five minutes to play. He finished the game with 18 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, a block and four turnovers (see highlights).

“It’s a range,” Brown said. “It’s more of a plan that we have this year than a restriction. When you look at and you feel the flow of the game, that’s where the variables come in.”

Embiid wants open lines of communication between him and the medical staff — for him to know what its planning and for him to be honest about how he is feeling.

“It’s on me to not lie to them and tell them how my body feels when I’m tired,” Embiid said. “At some point through the game I was tired and I told them to take me out.”

Embiid is ready for a new outlook on his availability moving forward. 

“We’ve got to stop calling it 'minutes restrictions,'" Embiid said. "There’s a plan with that — it’s just go out and play. If you’re tired, get out because injuries happen more often when you’re tired.”

Jrue Holiday explodes in 2nd half of Pelicans' OT win over Bucks

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AP Images

Jrue Holiday explodes in 2nd half of Pelicans' OT win over Bucks

MILWAUKEE — Jrue Holiday scored 28 of his season-high 36 points after halftime to lead the New Orleans Pelicans to a 123-121 overtime victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday.

Holiday added nine rebounds and six assists for New Orleans, which held on for its season-high fifth win in a row when Jason Terry's 3-pointer was ruled after the buzzer.

Anthony Davis, who entered the game as the league's third-leading scorer (27.7 ppg), added 27 points and 13 rebounds.

The Pelicans trailed by 18 early in the second half but outscored Milwaukee 38-19 in the third quarter.

Khris Middleton scored 25 points for the Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the No. 2 scorer in the NBA (27.8) and Eric Bledsoe each added 20, but the Bucks lost for only the fourth time in the last 14 games and fell to 9-26 all-time against New Orleans.

Rajon Rondo came up with the play of the game by draining a 3-pointer from the right wing as the 24-second clock was about to expire to give the Pelicans a 123-119 lead with 1:25 remaining in overtime (see full recap.)

Spurs top Cavs to end losing streak
CLEVELAND — LaMarcus Aldridge scored 27 points, Danny Green added 22 and the San Antonio Spurs ended their annual "rodeo" road trip by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 110-94 on Sunday to snap a four-game losing streak.

Green, who missed Friday's loss at Denver with food poisoning, came off the bench for the first time in 49 games this season. He made five 3-pointers to provide a perfect outside complement to Aldridge's dynamic inside game. Dejounte Murray added 13 points and nine rebounds for San Antonio, a team not accustomed to any turmoil.

But the Spurs have not been themselves lately while playing without star Kawhi Leonard. They had dropped six of seven and four in a row on a trip (their arena hosts a rodeo every year) that coach Gregg Popovich's squad typically uses as a spring board into the playoffs.

LeBron James had 33 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists for the Cavs, who fell to 3-2 since overhauling their roster with three trades (see full recap.)

Howard leads Hornets over Pistons 
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Something has changed for the Hornets' bench in the last three game. Cody Zeller calls it "rhythm." Frank Kaminsky calls it "flow."

No matter what name this newfound chemistry goes by, it has added up to the best play of the season from Charlotte reserves. And Sunday, it meant the difference as the Hornets beat the Detroit Pistons 114-98 for a season-best fourth straight win.

Dwight Howard led the Hornets with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Kemba Walker also recorded 17 points for Charlotte. But it was the Hornets' bench outscoring Detroit's reserves 51-28 that gave Charlotte the biggest edge.

"This is maybe the best 3-4 games we've played all season just because we're starting to put it together, especially on the defensive end," Zeller said. "Everyone is tied together."

The Hornets improved to 27-33 while making a push toward the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference for the playoffs. The Pistons have 28 wins, and there are eight teams in the conference with at least 31 victories (see full recap.)

Sixers to add familiar face via buyout market, per report

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USA Today Images

Sixers to add familiar face via buyout market, per report

The Sixers may soon poach a second veteran from the Hawks to boost their bench.

After signing Marco Belinelli on Feb. 12, the Sixers are reportedly poised to sign forward Ersan Ilyasova once his buyout with the Hawks is complete, per Yahoo! Sports’ Shams Charania. 

The 30-year-old Turkish forward is averaging 10.9 points and 5.5 rebounds in 25.5 minutes per game this season for Atlanta.

Ilyasova has a history in Philadelphia. He was acquired on Nov. 21, 2016 in a trade with the Thunder in exchange for Jerami Grant.

Ilyasova played 53 games for the Sixers and had one of the best individual stretches of his career, posting 14.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game on a team where he was one of the primary scoring options. Ilyasova was traded to Atlanta early in 2017 for Tiago Splitter and a 2017 second-round pick.

This time around, Ilyasova would be part of a very different Sixers team. He’d be a valuable asset for Brett Brown to turn to for scoring off the bench. A career 36.6 percent three-point shooter, the 6-10 Ilyasova is capable of stretching the floor.

With the active roster currently at the 15-player maximum, the Sixers would have to make a corresponding move to free up a spot for Ilyasova.