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
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.