76ers

Instant Replay: Hornets 109, Sixers 93

Instant Replay: Hornets 109, Sixers 93

BOX SCORE

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.

Sixers refuse to look at silver lining from season-opening loss

Sixers refuse to look at silver lining from season-opening loss

BOX SCORE

WASHINGTON — In years past, overcoming a 12-point deficit and trailing a playoff-contending team by just two points with a minute to go would be considered an “A for effort” for the Sixers

If they held their own against a more experienced team and didn’t get dominated by John Wall, a 120-115 loss on the road wasn’t really that bad … was it?

Not this season.

The Sixers are in a new phase, one with actual pieces versus promising potential. With that comes higher expectations to win, and it starts in the locker room after the first game. 

“I don’t like taking positives from losses,” JJ Redick said. “We need to clean up a lot of stuff. We need to be better. It takes a lot to win in this league. We need to figure that out, and we will. We are good enough to do that.” 

The Sixers were in Wednesday's game until the end (see observations). They withstood the combined 53 points from Wall and Bradley Beal with a 29-point performance by Robert Covington and double-doubles from Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons (see studs, duds, more).

The team acknowledged it had a chance to win. Yes, there were encouraging moments. No, they weren’t hanging their heads and writing off the season after opening night. 

At the same time, they are not ignoring the missteps that landed them in the loss column. Those are the turning points to learn from this season. 

The Sixers gave up just three points off four turnovers in the first half. The second half was a different story: 20 points off 13 turnovers. Down two points late in the fourth, the Sixers committed a pair of turnovers in a span of 30 seconds that hindered them from closing the gap. Those errors have been a focal point of conversation among the players. 

“Too many turnovers. That's big,” Embiid said (more on him here). “That's been the talk in the locker room. Got to work on that.”

The Sixers have one day of practice before facing the Celtics and Raptors in back-to-back games. It's just a small taste of what's to come in a stacked schedule over the first two months of the season. The attitude is be good enough to win, not good enough to compete. 

“We’re not going to try to lose this season and take a bunch of positives from that,” Redick said. “We’re trying to win. We’re trying to be in the playoffs this year. That’s got to be the mindset.”

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.”