By Max Rappaport, Sixers.com
It wasn’t pretty. In fact, Wednesday’s game against the Timberwolves was downright ugly. But when the final buzzer sounded with the Sixers on top 85-77, none of that mattered. After starting the season 0-17, one loss away from the NBA-worst 18 suffered by the Nets to begin their 2009-10 campaign, Philadelphia was finally able to put a notch in the win column.
“This validates the work [our players] put in,” said Sixers head coach Brett Brown after the game. “I have a tremendous respect for the fact that they never once quit on themselves or short-circuited a practice, and they were rewarded tonight.”
Neither team shot over 40% from the floor and were a combined 8-for-41 from beyond the arc with 19 turnovers each on the night, but when it mattered most the Sixers stepped up.
In the fourth quarter, Philadelphia turned the ball over just twice and shot 50.0% from the field, including 4-of-7 from deep. Three of those four three-pointers came courtesy of newcomer Robert Covington, who was called up by the team from the NBA Development League in mid-November. He went 3-for-4 from beyond the arc in the fourth, leading the team with nine points in the final frame.
Covington’s spark helped put Philadelphia over the edge, but it was reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams who helped get them there in the firsrt place.
With guards Tony Wroten (knee) and Alexey Shved (hip) held out of Wednesday’s game, Carter-Williams was the team’s only healthy point guard. He logged a season-high 43 minutes and led the team in points, assists, and rebounds, finishing with 20, nine, and nine, respectively.
“We played an unbelievable game. My guys were picking me up when I was tired, they made big shots, and we definitely got this win as a team,” he told Comcast SportsNet’s Molly Sullivan in a courtside interview after the victory. “A lot of the time this season, our talent and the hard work we put in the gym didn’t show on the floor… [We want to prove] that we compete in this league. A lot of people doubt us, and I know our record, but we just have to keep working.”
Over Carter-Williams’ last three games, he’s averaging 20.7 points, 10.7 assists, and 10.0 rebounds per contest.
• Michael Carter-Williams – 20 points (9/20 FG), 9 assists, 9 rebounds, 3 steals
• Robert Covington – 17 points (5/13 FG, 3/6 3P), 4 rebounds
• K.J. McDaniels – 12 points (4/13 FG), 9 rebounds, 4 blocks
• Luc Mbah a Moute – 12 points (4/9 FG), 9 rebound
On Friday, the Sixers host the Oklahoma City Thunder, who recently welcomes injured superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook back from injuries that had sidelined them previously. After that, the team will play its next three games on the road.
Head Coach Brett Brown
On the win…
“There’s a human side of it. You walk into that locker room and you’re just proud of them for staying together. They’re just overjoyed. We feel, and we all feel, like we’ve been pretty close the last handful of games, half-dozen games. We’ve been pretty close. It’s been a five point game in fourth periods 11 out of our 18 games. It’s not like we’re getting embarrassed regularly. We’re not. We feel like this validates the work that they’ve put in and I have a tremendous amount of respect that they never once quit on themselves, short-circuited a practice and they were rewarded tonight.
“People talk a lot about does this rebuild produce habits of losing and do you get used to losing. I sort of see it a different way where we’re learning how to close out a game. We’ve been close, we just haven’t been able to find a way to win. We were able to execute some stuff out of our structure with Michael [Carter-Williams] finishing and Nerlens [Noel] on a lob. I give K.J. [McDaniels] and Robert Covington a lot of credit for backing themselves after not great shooting performances in the first half. The group found a way to win. We did it through not turning the ball over in the second half. I thought our overall defensive game was really good throughout the entire game.”
Guard K.J. McDaniels
How does this feel seeing a win?
“I was happy because we all fought, even though we’re missing a few players and I think we’re all coming together and learning each other’s game. We’re locking up on defense, I feel like our defense is helping us out a lot. The guards rebounded as well, everybody coming in and rebounding as a group. Coach preaches that and we have to keep being on top of that.”
On Carter-Williams in the fourth quarter…
“Mikey executed well coming down, he was our only point guard really. I know I turned the ball over a few times but Mikey led the way and Robert did a good job coming in and knocking down a few three’s as well. Defense is what led to that win.”
What does the victory mean?
“It’s a great feeling because we all put in the days, every day. We haven’t cut any days short. We’ve been fighting every day in practice and watching a lot of film so to come out and get a win feels great.”
Guard Michael Carter-Williams
On the win…
“It was a great game, the guys played great. It was a team win. We just went out there and played hard and executed down the stretch and I think that was the biggest thing for us was getting a good clean shot and taking care of the ball and hoping that it goes in and getting stops on the defensive end.”
How does it feel with the streak being over?
“For me personally, I think it’s a big relief off my chest and same for the rest of the guys. They say they feel more relaxed now that we’ve got a win and I think we can build off of this and get some more wins.”
On taking control down the stretch…
“I think that’s my job on this team is to get guys shots and make plays down the stretch. Robert knocked down big shots, K.J. hit a big shot, Nerlens had a great roll to the basket at the end and as a team defensively we did a great job down the stretch. We rebounded, limited them to one shot and we got out to run and executed.”