76ers

Sixers-Hornets 5 things: Relying on Jahlil Okafor vs. Charlotte's big men

Sixers-Hornets 5 things: Relying on Jahlil Okafor vs. Charlotte's big men

The Sixers (0-3) close out their first back-to-back set of the season with their road opener against the Charlotte Hornets (2-1) on Wednesday night (7 p.m./CSN).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup.

1. Closing up shop
One thing about consistently having a young team is consistently having to learn tough lessons. That's been the case each season for the Sixers under Brett Brown in regards to closing out games, and Tuesday was no different.

The Sixers managed only 14 points in the fourth quarter of a 103-101 loss to the Orlando Magic. That included zero field goals in the last 3:56 and two Joel Embiid turnovers in the final 36.6 seconds as they blew a once-18-point lead.

“It’s really tough,” Embiid said of the loss. "Next time we’ve got to come out of halftime, we’ve got to be ready. … Next time when we have a lead like that we’ve just got to be ready to play and compete.”

That's now two double-digit leads blown in the Sixers' three losses this season. Certainly not a trend they'd like to see continue.

2. Jahlil's turn
Brown opted to split up his centers for the back-to-back. That means Embiid will get the night off in Charlotte and Jahlil Okafor will take his place after sitting out against the Magic.

Okafor is still working his way back from a torn meniscus suffered last season. He's looked fluid in his movements on the court, averaging 8.0 points and 3.5 rebounds in 15.5 minutes a night. However, the big man's shot has been rusty (35.3 percent).

Even on a minutes restriction, Okafor will need to give the Sixers quality minutes down low against a big Hornets frontline that features healthy seven-footers Frank Kaminsky and Cody Zeller.

3. Keep an eye on Kemba
The battle of the bigs will definitely be an important factor to Wednesday's meeting, but let's be honest: The game will likely come down to how well the Sixers can contain Kemba Walker.

The point guard has gotten off to a strong start in his sixth season. He has averaged 23.3 points and 5.0 assists to open the 2016-17 campaign. Walker has also been wreaking havoc in the passing lanes on defense with 2.3 steals per contest.

Those numbers are just about on par with what Walker put up against the Sixers last season as the Hornets swept the four-game series.

The Sixers better hope Sergio Rodriguez and T.J. McConnell got a good night's rest.

4. Injuries
Embiid (rest) did not make the trip with the Sixers. Ben Simmons (foot), Nerlens Noel (knee) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are also out.

Former Sixer Christian Wood (illness) is a game-time decision. Roy Hibbert (knee) and Jeremy Lamb (hamstring) are out for the Hornets.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost five straight games to the Hornets.

• The Sixers are shooting just 25.6 percent from three-point range to start the seas.

• The Hornets are first in the NBA in blocks per game with 8.3, while the Sixers are second with 7.7.

76ers Gaming Club announce team name, logo for NBA 2K League

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NBA 2K League

76ers Gaming Club announce team name, logo for NBA 2K League

The 76ers Gaming Club is Philadelphia’s latest professional esports brand. 

Set to compete in the inaugural season of the NBA 2K League, the fresh new esports brand —  which was officially released on Thursday by Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment — maintains the Sixers' classic style, which includes seven stars circling around a bell made up of the numbers seven and six. 

“We are excited to unveil 76ers GC’s new brand identity as we welcome another dynamic sports property to the Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment family,” said Chris Heck, Philadelphia 76ers President of Business Operations. “Working alongside the NBA 2K League, we developed a brand identity that pays homage to the revolutionary origins of this city, speaks to the new Philadelphia fan and exemplifies the edge of the esports audience.”

Aggressive in its pursuit of esports investment opportunities, HBSE, already owners of Team Dignitas, a highly respected competitive esports club, bought into NBA 2K League with 16 other NBA franchises back in May. 

76ers GC joins Kings Guard Gaming (Sacramento Kings), Pistons GT (Detroit Pistons), Pacers Gaming (Indiana Pacers), Mavs Gaming (Dallas Mavericks), Cavs Legion GC (Cleveland Cavaliers), Wizards District Gaming (Washington Wizards), Magic Gaming (Orlando Magic), Jazz Gaming (Utah Jazz), Blazer5 Gaming (Portland Trailblazers) and Celtics Gaming (Boston Celtics). Also included will be the Toronto Raptors, Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks.

While 76ers GC was born to participate in NBA 2K League, it should be noted that the name “76ers Gaming Club” is void of any mention or image of basketball or NBA 2K. This leaves open the possibility of 76ers GC adding more competitive games and gamers under its brand in the future.

NBA 2K League is a professional esports league co-founded by the NBA and Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc., the creator of North America’s most popular sports title, NBA 2K. Players will receive a competitive salary and benefits. The league will begin its inaugural season, featuring five-on-five competition in May, following official player tryouts and a live player draft set for March. 

Best of NBA: Thunder carry George to win in Indiana return

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USA Today Images

Best of NBA: Thunder carry George to win in Indiana return

INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George made a winning return to Indiana, hitting the clinching free throws with 10.7 seconds left in the Oklahoma City Thunder's 100-95 victory over the Pacers on Wednesday night.

Steven Adams had 23 points and 13 rebounds and Russell Westbrook finished with 10 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists in his ninth triple-double this season. The Thunder have won two straight on the road.

Victor Oladipo led the Pacers with 19 points and Bojan Bogdanovic scored 15. Indiana had a chance to tie the score after getting the ball back with 15.2 seconds left but committed a turnover and then fouled George.

The Pacers' winning streak ended at four.

But the highly anticipated matchup between George and Oladipo, the key components in last summer's blockbuster trade, didn't go as expected.

George was booed loudly during introductions and every time he touched the ball. Fans only cheered for George when he was called for a foul or made a mistake and it seemed to take a toll on the four-time All-Star. He finished 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting, had two rebounds and four turnovers.

Oladipo, the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, didn't have a typical night either. He was 9 of 26 with five rebounds and six assists (see full recap).

Wizards top Grizzlies in Wall’s return
WASHINGTON -- Bradley Beal scored 18 points and John Wall had 13 in his return from a sore knee to help the Washington Wizards hold off the Memphis Grizzlies 93-87 on Wednesday night.

Beal scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, hitting three 3-pointers. Otto Porter Jr. added 14 points, and Marcin Gortat had 12.

Wall missed nine games, with Washington going 4-5 in his absence.

After the Grizzlies took their first lead of the night, 67-65, on James Ennis III's 3-pointer with 8:53 left to play, Washington responded with a 13-0 run and Memphis got no closer than 83-80 the rest of the way.

Andrew Harrison led Memphis with 20 points, JaMychal Green had 15 points and15 rebounds, and Marc Gasol had 15 points and 10 rebounds. The Grizzlies have lost five straight and 16 out of 17 (see full recap).

Lillard leads way as Blazers rally past Heat
MIAMI -- Damian Lillard scored seven of his 18 points in the final 3:16, and the Portland Trail Blazers overcame a 16-point second-half deficit to break their five-game losing streak, beating the Miami Heat 102-95 on Wednesday night.

Lillard, who came into the game averaging 26.6 points, had only one field goal in the first 31 minutes. But he converted a three-point play put the Trail Blazers ahead to stay, 98-95, and sank two free throws on their next possession for a five-point lead.

CJ McCollum scored 28 points for the Trail Blazers (14-13). They climbed back above .500 and improved to 7-5 on the road. The Heat (13-14) fell below .500 and dropped to 5-7 at home.

Miami reserve Wayne Ellington sank seven 3-pointers and scored a season-high 24 points. Dion Waiters added 17 points for the Heat, who were hurt by three missed free throws down the stretch.

Both teams were short-handed. Heat forward Justise Winslow left the game in the first half with a left knee strain and did not return, and guard Tyler Johnson sat out because of a migraine.

Miami was also without center Hassan Whiteside for a seventh consecutive games because of a bone bruise in his left knee (see full recap).