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Sixers can't slow down Lonzo Ball in Las Vegas 1st-round loss to Lakers

Sixers can't slow down Lonzo Ball in Las Vegas 1st-round loss to Lakers

LAS VEGAS — LeBron James sat baseline as all eyes in the stands gravitated toward him.

Lonzo Ball opted to wear Nikes instead of his signature Big Baller Brand ZO2 and had a monster night.

Alex Poythress swatted a block out of bounds with so much force he broke a laptop screen. 

All the while, a basketball game was played.

The first-round game of tournament play in the Las Vegas Summer League between the Sixers and Lakers came down to the final seconds. The excitement was fitting for a matchup surrounded by fanfare and buzz from start to finish. 

The Lakers eliminated the Sixers from summer league tournament contention with a 103-102 victory on Wednesday (Instant Replay). The Sixers will play a consolation game on Friday.

Ball managed to draw some attention away from James in the second half when he exploded on the offensive end. After scoring just eight points before halftime, he finished with a game-high 36 points (12 for 22 from the field, 3 for 10 from three, 9 for 12 from the line). Ball added 11 assists, eight rebounds, five steals, six turnovers and two blocks in 36 minutes (see highlights).

The No. 2 pick in last month’s draft shifted into another gear heading into the third quarter and took advantage of gaps he saw in the Sixers’ defense. 

“Coming off the ball screens, it was kind of open lane,” Ball said. “The whole time it’s been like that, I’ve just been settling. I talked to (Lakers head coach) Luke (Walton) about getting to the basket a little bit more. That’s what I did tonight.”

The Sixers surrendered a 15-point lead in the second half. Even though Furkan Korkmaz looked more comfortable and scored 19 points (8 for 14 from the field), Poythress posted 19 points, Larry Drew II dished eight assists to go along with 15 points, and both Isaiah Briscoe and James Blackmon Jr. provided offensive sparks off the bench, they were all overshadowed by Ball’s performance.

“He’s a good player,” Briscoe, who scored 12 points in 8½ minutes, said. “That’s his team and he took control of his team.” 

Yes, Ball dominated. Ironically, he made a huge statement on the court by wearing the Nike Kobe ADs and not Big Baller Brand. 

“You know, Mamba mentality,” Ball said. “Thought I’d switch it up. I wore them tonight. It’s good when you can wear whatever you want.” 

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.