New Sixers forward Ersan Ilyasova's marathon day ends with loss

New Sixers forward Ersan Ilyasova's marathon day ends with loss


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ersan Ilyasova looked worn down Wednesday night, sitting in front of his locker with his feet in a bucket of ice and ice packs wrapped around his knees.

That’s no surprise, considering what Ilyasova had gone through in the past 24 hours.

But the 6-foot-10 forward dug in deep when the Sixers needed him to, scoring 14 points in 24 minutes off the bench in Wednesday’s 109-93 loss to the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center (see Instant Replay).

Ilyasova made 5 of 12 from the field (including 2 of 6 on three-pointers), pulled down three rebounds and added three assists for the Sixers — all coming after joining his new team less than 18 hours earlier.

“It is what it is, man,” said Ilyasova, now with his fifth NBA team since being selected as the 36th overall pick in the 2005 draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. “That’s the NBA. You have to be professional no matter what. Obviously, the trade happened and everything kind of fell in one day.

“We have a good group of guys, we played well as far as sharing the ball. I just tried to help as far as just being in the right place offensively.”

Ilyasova’s day began with a flight from Oklahoma City to Charlotte, arriving in the city around 1 a.m. Wednesday. He underwent a physical exam at 8 a.m. to finalize the trade, then met with Sixers coach Brett Brown and other team officials over breakfast.

By noon, Ilyasova was preparing for Wednesday night’s game, watching game tape of the Hornets and even earlier Sixers games. At 4 p.m., three hours before tipoff, he was at the Spectrum Center, working out with coaches and some of his new teammates.

“Obviously, there were a lot of things to learn offensively,” Ilyasova said. 

While Brown admitted during his pregame meeting with the media that he planned on playing Ilyasova against the Hornets, he was forced to go to the Sixers’ new acquisition earlier than planned after Jahlil Okafor picked up two fouls in a 30-second span early in the first quarter.

“At the beginning of the game, we got in foul trouble, so I was kinda preparing myself,” Ilyasova said. “When I got the opportunities, I stepped up out on the floor.”

Ilyasova’s first shot led to his first points — a three-pointer with 7:23 remaining in the first quarter. But his biggest contribution came in the second quarter, as the Sixers turned a 26-26 tie at the end of the first period into a 53-46 halftime lead.

Ilyasova tipped in a Okafor miss with 4:28 left to put the Sixers up 46-36, their first double-digit lead, then followed that with a layup 27 seconds later. He went on to score six points in the period, the last on a pair of free throws with 1:34 left that were the Sixers’ final points of the half.

“I think we did a really good job as far as just continuing to stay in the game in the first half,” Ilyasova said.

But things began falling apart for the Sixers in the second half. Led by Nicolas Batum’s 17 third-quarter points, the Hornets outscored the Sixers 39-20 in the period, turning what had been a seven-point Sixers lead into a 85-73 Charlotte lead.

The Hornets’ biggest lead came midway through the fourth quarter — 18 points, at 102-84, on Marvin Williams’ layup with 6:17 remaining.

“We couldn’t score at the beginning of the second [half], and it was a huge key to losing the game for us,” Ilyasova said. “We have to come out more ready right out of the gates at halftime and prepare ourselves. Those things are going to cost us moving forward.”

Ilyasova has a little more time to get used to his new teammates before the Sixers’ next game — Saturday night against the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

“We’ve got some really good potential here,” Ilyasova said. “But we have to stick together, no matter what. Obviously, this was a tough loss. We’re 0-4, but I think we can find ourselves and get in a good position.”

Brown can already see the potential of what the Sixers' newest acquisition can provide.

“I thought Ersan was good,” Brown said. “For just walking into a breakfast room this morning and coming onto the court and playing with our guys, you can see why we were attracted to him. I think he’s going to be an excellent complement to what we have.”

Best of NBA: Pelicans hold off late Lakers rally for 1st win

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Best of NBA: Pelicans hold off late Lakers rally for 1st win

LOS ANGELES -- Anthony Davis scored 27 points, DeMarcus Cousins had 20 and the New Orleans Pelicans withstood a furious rally to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 119-112 on Sunday night for their first victory of the season.

The Pelicans led by 22 points in the second quarter and were still up by double figures heading into the final period, but the Lakers made a charge despite a poor shooting night from rookie Lonzo Ball.

Reserve Jordan Clarkson had 24 points for the Lakers, but Ball shot just 3 for 13 for eight points. He did have 13 assists and eight rebounds.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope started and scored 20 points in his first appearance for the Lakers. Rookie Kyle Kuzma also had 20.

E'Twaun Moore, who went 0 for 5 in his last game, added 19 points for the Pelicans (1-2), while Jrue Holiday and Ian Clark each had 14 (see full recap).

Wiggins' heave banks in, leads Timberwolves past Thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Andrew Wiggins' 3-pointer from a few steps inside halfcourt banked in as time expired to give the Minnesota Timberwolves a 115-113 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night.

Oklahoma City's Carmelo Anthony had hit a 3-pointer with 5.1 seconds left to give the Thunder the lead before the Timberwolves inbounded to Wiggins, who rushed up the court and got free with help from a crushing pick by Karl-Anthony Towns before pulling up for the winner.

Wiggins scored 27 points and Towns had 27 points and 12 rebounds for Minnesota (2-1).

Russell Westbrook scored 15 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter for the Thunder, who were coming off a loss at Utah on Saturday night. Anthony scored 23 points and Paul George scored 14 points on 6-for-20 shooting. Steven Adams had 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Thunder (see full recap).

Allen Crabbe scored 20 points, Nets beat Hawks
NEW YORK -- Allen Crabbe scored 20 points, DeMarre Carroll had 17 and the Brooklyn Nets beat the Atlanta Hawks 116-104 on Sunday.

Caris LeVert and D'Angelo Russell each had 16 points to help the Nets improve to 2-1 with their second straight victory.

Marco Belinelli had 19 points for Atlanta. The Hawks have lost two in a row to drop to 1-2.

Atlanta point guard Dennis Schroeder went down with an apparent ankle injury with 3:37 left and had to be helped off the court.

Brooklyn found a way to win once again without Jeremy Lin, who was lost for the season on opening night with a knee injury, holding off the Hawks after leading by 16 points late in the third (see full recap).

Winless Suns fire head coach Earl Watson

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Winless Suns fire head coach Earl Watson

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns have fired coach Earl Watson just three games in to the NBA season.

The Suns announced the firing Sunday night after hours of meetings at the team's headquarters.

Assistant coach Jay Triano, a former head coach of the Toronto Raptors, was named interim coach. Triano was an assistant at Portland before coming to Phoenix last year.

Watson was promoted from assistant to interim coach of the Suns after Jeff Hornacek was fired Feb. 1, 2016. The interim tag was removed on April 19 of that year. With an extremely young team, the Suns struggled under Watson. He compiled a 33-85 record. Watson's only full season was 2016-17, when the team went 24-58.

The 38-year-old Watson played collegiately at UCLA and in the NBA for 10 seasons. He often spoke of his long talks with John Wooden, emphasized togetherness and a family atmosphere to nurture the young squad but wins were hard to come by.

And owner Robert Sarver apparently didn't like what he saw. Phoenix is 0-3 and two of the losses were especially ugly. The Suns were blown out 124-76 by the Portland in their season opener Wednesday night, the most one-sided loss in franchise history and the most one-sided season opener for any NBA team.

Phoenix was routed by the Clippers in Los Angeles 130-88 on Saturday night.

"I Dont wanna be here," point guard Eric Bledsoe tweeted Sunday, just as the news of Watson's firing surfaced in an ESPN report. The tweet by Bledsoe, a former Clipper, was followed by one from the Clippers' DeAndre Jordan saying "Come back home bro."

Bledsoe has been rumored in possible trades for months.

Watson's dismissal is the first NBA coaching change in well over a year. Hornacek's hiring by the New York Knicks, which was finalized in June 2016, had been the most recent change -- and the irony there is that Watson got the job in Phoenix with 33 games left in the 2015-16 season, after the Suns fired Hornacek.

Watson was the league's second-youngest active coach behind the Lakers' Luke Walton, and the Suns were tied with the Chicago Bulls as having the youngest opening-night roster in the NBA this season.

"I'd like to see the fight be a little bit more," Watson said after the blowout loss to the Clippers. "Or a lot more, until you know they're just fatigued."

The Suns came into this season with only four losses by 40 or more points in franchise history. They've had two in the first three games of this season. Phoenix has not made the playoffs in seven years, the longest drought in the franchise's 49-year history.

Watson was the 17th Suns coach in the franchise's history.

This was the first NBA season where every coach who started one year had the same job to begin the next.