Instant Replay: Hornets 109, Sixers 93

Instant Replay: Hornets 109, Sixers 93


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — For two quarters, the Sixers looked to be on the verge of winning their first game of the season.

But a big letdown — both offensively and defensively — in the third quarter allowed the Charlotte Hornets to storm back, taking a 109-93 victory over the Sixers on Wednesday night at the Spectrum Center.

Dario Saric and newcomer Ersan Ilyasova scored 14 points apiece for the Sixers (0-4), who led by as many as 13 points in the second quarter and were ahead 53-46 at the halftime break.

But the Hornets (3-1) got 22 points from Kemba Walker and 20 from Nicolas Batum, who scored 17 points in the third quarter to turn things around for Charlotte.

The Hornets outscored the Sixers 39-20 in the third quarter, taking advantage of eight Sixers turnovers (leading to 11 points) and 72.7 percent shooting (16 of 22). Meanwhile, after shooting 44.4 percent in the first half (20 of 45), the Sixers managed to hit just 7 of 19 in the third quarter.

Inside the box score
• The Sixers finished the game shooting 39.5 percent from the field (34 of 86), to 49.4 percent (39 of 79) for the Hornets.

• The Hornets also enjoyed a rebounding advantage, leading on the boards 44-37 behind 13 from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Saric led the Sixers with seven rebounds.

• After commiting just eight turnovers in the first half, the Sixers finished with 19 — a total of 78 over their first four games.

• Six players finished in double figures for the Sixers. Jahlil Okafor had 12, Richaun Holmes and Gerald Henderson added 11 each, and Sergio Rodriguez scored 10.

Okafor in, Embiid out
While Okafor returned to the lineup after sitting out the Sixers’ loss to Orlando on Tuesday night, teammate Joel Embiid sat out Wednesday night’s game. Embiid stayed behind and worked out at the team’s training facility in Camden, New Jersey.

However, Sixers head coach Brett Brown opted to start Holmes instead of Okafor against the Hornets — a decision he said was made to better utilize the limited minutes the 6-11 Okafor would play. He was restricted to 24 minutes Wednesday, and wound up playing 23 minutes.

Neither Okafor or Embiid will initially play in back-to-back games — part of a plan Sixers officials are using to bring both players slowly back to form because of injuries. Embiid had missed the past two seasons recovering from foot surgeries, while Okafor missed the final 23 games last season after suffering a small tear in the meniscus of his right knee.

Ilyasova a late arrival
Ilyasova had a long day Wednesday. He played 24 minutes off the bench against the Hornets, less than 12 hours after joining the team.

Ilyasova, acquired Tuesday in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder for forward Jerami Grant and a conditional first-round pick, arrived in Charlotte early Wednesday morning. After a physical exam, he met with Brown and Sixers management over breakfast.

By lunchtime, he was watching game tape and worked out briefly with some of his new teammates three hours before Wednesday night’s game.

They said it
“I was in my office watching film, and Patrick Ewing came in and said, ‘Whoa! I’m watching film, and this guy could well be the most talented center in this league.’ If you know Patrick, that’s not — especially at that position — something he says often. … I’m glad that he played last night. Okafor’s bad enough, we don’t need them both.”

- Hornets head coach Steve Clifford on Embiid

Up next
The Sixers get the next two days off before playing their next two games at the Wells Fargo Center — against defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday and the Utah Jazz next Monday.

Who needs Kawhi? Aldridge drops 45 in Spurs' OT win

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Who needs Kawhi? Aldridge drops 45 in Spurs' OT win

SAN ANTONIO -- LaMarcus Aldridge had a career-high 45 points, helping San Antonio overcome Donovan Mitchell's 35-point performance for Utah in the Spurs' 124-120 overtime victory over the Jazz on Friday night.

The Spurs won their sixth straight and beat the Jazz for the first time in four meetings this season.

Utah's 12-game road winning streak came to an end, but only after Mitchell had 14 points in the fourth quarter, including three 3-pointers in the final two minutes to force overtime.

San Antonio remained sixth in the Western Conference with the same record as fifth-place New Orleans, a half-game behind Oklahoma City for fourth. Utah remained eighth in the West.

After free throws by Spurs guards Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills and a dunk by Jazz center Rudy Gobert put San Antonio up 114-111, Mitchell drained his third 3-pointer of the fourth with 3.6 seconds remaining to force overtime.

Mills, who finished with 23 points, had six points in overtime as the Spurs capped an undefeated six-game homestand.

Pacers use late run to edge Clippers
INDIANAPOLIS -- Bojan Bogdanovic scored 28 points and the Indiana Pacers used a late 9-0 run to hold on for a 109-104 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, putting them on the precipice of clinching a playoff spot.

The Pacers won for only the second time in five games but can clinch a playoff berth with one more win or a Detroit loss.

Los Angeles' fading playoff aspirations were dealt another blow. The Clippers are now three games behind Utah for the final postseason spot in the Western Conference. Utah was playing later Friday.

Lou Williams led Los Angeles with 27 points and DeAndre Jordan finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds as the Clippers lost for the fifth time in six games (see full recap).

Jokic, Murray lift Nuggets over Wizards
WASHINGTON -- Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray each scored 25 points to keep the Denver Nuggets' playoff hopes alive by beating the Washington Wizards 108-100 on Friday night.

The one-two punch of Jokic and Murray plus outside shooting from Will Barton allowed the Nuggets to withstand a third-quarter charge from the Wizards and maintain their sights on one of the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference. Denver went into the night two games back of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz and shot 50 percent from 3-point territory to stay very much in the race with nine games remaining.

Bradley Beal led Washington with 24 points as it failed to gain ground in a competitive East where five teams are separated in the standings by four games (see full recap).

Brett Brown's top competition for Coach of the Year

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Brett Brown's top competition for Coach of the Year

The Coach of the Year award in every sport typically comes down to: 

1. Which team overachieved the most?

2. Which team increased its win total the most?

3. Which team that fits both descriptions has a media-friendly coach?

Brett Brown is a deserving candidate this season. Not saying he'll win, or even that he stands out as the most deserving, but he's more than just "in the conversation."

Before getting to the other candidates and their likelihood of winning, let's acknowledge why Brown deserves serious consideration. 

We all knew the Sixers would be better this season. A second year of Joel Embiid and the first of Embiid and Ben Simmons. Finally, a good veteran shooter in JJ Redick.

But did you expect the Sixers to up their win total by 20 games? Currently, that's what they're on pace to do.

Did you expect them to pick up wins over the Rockets, Spurs, Celtics, Raptors, Cavs and Spurs again? Yeah, the Sixers have laid some eggs this season, but they have just as many high-quality wins.

Factor in the continued development of players like Dario Saric and T.J. McConnell and it should be clear that Brown has gotten a whole lot out of this team.

Now, on to the other candidates. The way I see it, there are six in addition to Brown: 

• Dwane Casey (Raptors)
• Nate McMillan (Pacers)
• Brad Stevens (Celtics)
• Mike D'Antoni (Rockets)
• Quin Snyder (Jazz)
• Doc Rivers (Clippers)

Just being realistic here, I think Casey wins it. The Raptors will be the 1-seed in the East and may even end up with the NBA's second-best record given the Warriors' injury report.

It goes beyond that, though. Toronto revamped its system to place less stress on Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. The result has been the emergence of the NBA's best bench. DeRozan is also now shooting threes, a big benefit to the Raps' spacing.

Lastly, Casey is a media darling. He's done the podcast circuit this season, and his long tenure as a personable NBA assistant will help him with voters.

Nate McMillan
McMillan's Pacers have overachieved, but that has so much more to do with Victor Oladipo than anything else. That's not meant to discredit McMillan, but the gap between expectations and reality for Oladipo is the reason the Pacers have surprised. Unless the Pacers finish several games ahead of the Sixers, I can't see McMillan finishing ahead of Brown.

Brad Stevens
The Celtics have faded of late, mostly because of mounting injuries to their backcourt. Stevens deserves a ton of credit for keeping this team 25-plus games over .500 with so many young pieces, but he won't finish ahead of Casey.

Doc Rivers
Rivers' case is dependent on whether or not the Clippers make the playoffs. The Clips, based on talent alone, have no business being 38-33 in a loaded West. They just play extremely hard and have been maybe the hungriest NBA team this season — so many contributions from guys on two-way contracts.

But LA is now 2½ games out of the 8-seed, so we can almost close the book on Rivers for COY.

Mike D'Antoni
The Rockets have been the best team this season and D'Antoni is a huge reason why. The Chris Paul addition is a bigger reason why, but the Rockets are where they are because of how Paul has been integrated into D'Antoni's system, and because Houston is finally focused on defense. D'Antoni should finish in the top three of the Coach of the Year voting, but it's hard to win when you add a veteran superstar in the offseason.

Predicted order of finish: Casey, Brown, Snyder, D'Antoni, Stevens, McMillan, Rivers