Carter-Williams stars in debut as Sixers stun Heat

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Carter-Williams stars in debut as Sixers stun Heat

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Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner had to laugh. Shortly after holding off the two-time defending NBA champions for a 114-110 opening night victory (see Instant Replay), the teammates thought back to their first season with the Sixers.

“I was joking with Evan. We were talking about when we first got here how we had a lot of games just like this one early in the season and we found a million different ways to lose them,” Hawes said. “We needed this.”

Some of those losses during the 2010-11 season were unique, like the one in which the Sixers lost to Washington on a late four-point play in overtime. There was another OT loss in Washington, too, as the Sixers opened the season 3-13.

The difference between those losses and the victory on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center was hardly a subtle one, according to Hawes and fellow veteran Thad Young. First, the Sixers opened the game with a 19-0 run, built up a lead to 22 points and rallied in the fourth quarter after allowing 80 points in the second and third frames.

The Heat played the second game of a back-to-back without Dwyane Wade. However, with 80 points in the second and third quarters, including 10-for-13 shooting on threes in the third quarter, it looked like the Heat would survive without the perennial All-Star.

That was until the Sixers’ rookie point guard, Michael Carter-Williams, took over.

Down by eight points with 4:30 to go in the game, the Sixers stood up to LeBron James (25 points, 13 assists) and the Heat with a remarkable amount of poise. Call it steely nerve and veteran know-how all over the floor from Hawes, Turner and Young.

But more than that, unflappable point guard Carter-Williams played as if he had been in the league for 10 years. In the final three minutes of the game, Carter-Williams grabbed three rebounds, handed out three assists, grabbed a steal and stepped up to the foul line to make five out of six foul shots, including a pair with 8.5 seconds left to seal the game.

Believe it or not, Carter-Williams showed that poise and grittiness in his NBA debut. With 22 points, 12 assists, nine steals and seven assists, Carter-Williams did just about everything and then some. The double-double is the first by a Sixer since Maurice Cheeks did it in his first game in 1978. The 22 points is the most by a player making his debut since Allen Iverson scored 30 in 1996.

The 22-12-9-7 combination is one achieved only twice previously by anyone in NBA history. Quick point guard Ricky Green had a 26-12-9-7 for the Utah Jazz in 1982, and Spurs guard Johnny Moore put up a 26-13-9-11 in 1985.

Not only did the nine steals tie a franchise record, but also it was the most steals in a debut since it became an official stat in 1973. No player has officially posted a triple-double in his NBA debut, though coach Brett Brown -- also making his NBA coaching debut -- thinks Carter-Williams could have been the first.

“I thought he could have had one more steal but he was out of place in one of the early defensive assignments,” Brown said, again with a grin.

The coach will let that one slide. After all, it was the first game and Carter-Williams did step up to hit those free throws at the end.

And oh yeah, Carter-Williams had just one turnover.

“The stats speak for themselves, really,” Brown said. “They’re littered across many categories. … We tried to come up with a game plan and a way to play and he’s a big part of that. We have to turn him loose a little bit.

“What do you say? Look at the win and look at the stat line. He was really, really good.”

Carter-Williams wasn’t the only standout. Turner scored a game-high 26 points on 10-for-19 shooting, despite the fact he missed four three-pointers and went 3 for 10 on shots outside the paint. Hawes added 24 points with a team-high nine rebounds and hit a huge three-pointer with 2:36 to go in the game to cut the Heat’s lead to one point.

Additionally, Young added 10 points and Tony Wroten came off the bench to provide some energy and fire to go with 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting.

Brown played nine of his 11 players in uniform with each player scoring a basket in at least 12 minutes.

Afterwards, the talk was about the rookie point guard and his remarkable debut.

“I’m very proud of him,” Young said. “He showed every side of himself and how he can be a great player in this league. He handled the pressure and he got up into them and forced them to make mistakes. He kind of willed us on.

“He doesn’t play like a rookie at all. He came in on day one and was able to take coaching and criticism and that’s a good thing. He has a little edge to him, which I like. I don’t want my point guard to be a wimp or a punk or anything like that -- I want him to be tough. You know, take the contact and keep on moving and he does that. Put a Band-Aid over it and keep playing.”

All while posting some impressive numbers, too.

Afterwards, Carter-Williams was as poised talking to the media as he was battling the Heat on the floor. He was excited to see his family after the game and gave veteran answers about his performance, quickly deflecting accolades from himself to his team.

"Everything was clicking tonight," Carter-Williams said. "If we can consistently play together, then we can be a good team."

Better yet, Carter-Williams is already looking forward to Thursday’s film and practice session followed by the trip to Washington where he will be matched up against point guard John Wall and the Wizards on Friday night.

First, it’s Wall on Friday night and then Derrick Rose and the Bulls on Saturday night.

Get ready, rookie, there’s more coming.

Best of NBA: Heat stun Warriors on Dion Waiters' 3 with 0.6 seconds left

Best of NBA: Heat stun Warriors on Dion Waiters' 3 with 0.6 seconds left

MIAMI -- Dion Waiters' 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds left capped his 33-point effort, and the Miami Heat beat Golden State 105-102 on Monday night to end the Warriors' seven-game winning streak.

The Heat wasted a 10-point lead in the final 4 minutes, and Kevin Durant tied the game on a dunk with 11.7 seconds left. With no timeouts, Waiters walked the ball up the court and drilled what became the game-winner over Klay Thompson.

Stephen Curry missed a 3-pointer as time expired for the Warriors (see full recap).

Rivers, Crawford lead Clippers past Hawks
ATLANTA -- Austin Rivers scored 27 points and Jamal Crawford broke out of a shooting slump with 19, helping the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Atlanta Hawks 115-105 on Monday night.

Crawford had eight points in the fourth quarter, including a driving basket after Atlanta cut the Clippers' lead from 24 to five points.

Kent Bazemore led the Hawks with 25 points. Dennis Schroder had 21, and Dwight Howard added 16 points and 12 rebounds (see full recap).

Wizards beat Hornets behind Wall’s 24
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- John Wall firmly believes the Washington Wizards are a good team with plenty of playoff potential.

The key, he said, "is we just got to believe it every time we step on the court."

Wall had 24 points and seven assists, and the Wizards looked plenty confident as they continued their run up the Eastern Conference standings with a 109-99 win against the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night (see full recap).

Kings snap skid with win over Pistons
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- DeMarcus Cousins had 22 points and 14 rebounds, and the Sacramento Kings snapped a five-game losing streak with a 109-104 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Monday night.

Ty Lawson added 19 points and helped Sacramento turn the game around with a strong second quarter. Lawson scored nine points in the second, and the Kings outscored the Pistons 37-24 in the period to take a 65-62 lead into halftime.

A 3-pointer by Lawson put Sacramento up 101-90 in the fourth, and the Kings held on from there to stop Detroit's three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Jones, Holiday lead Pelicans past Cavs
NEW ORLEANS -- Terrence Jones filled in brilliantly for injured All-Star Anthony Davis, scoring a season-high 36 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking LeBron James' dunk attempt in the fourth quarter, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-122 on Monday night.

Jrue Holiday added 33 points and 10 assists for the Pelicans, and Langston Galloway capped a 12-point night with a clean steal on James' drive in the final minute, preventing the Cavs from erasing a deficit they had trimmed from 22 late in the first half to three with 1:32 left in the game.

Kyrie Irving scoring 35 of his 49 points in the second half, but the Cleveland fell to its fifth loss in seven games. James had 26 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds (see full recap).

Without Joel Embiid, Brett Brown eager to see if Sixers can protect the rim

Without Joel Embiid, Brett Brown eager to see if Sixers can protect the rim

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers have been challenged by playing without Joel Embiid in one of two games in a back-to-back series all season. Now they will have to do it in at least the next two straight games. 

“We’re going to be without him tomorrow (against the Clippers) and in Milwaukee and we’ll go from there,” Brett Brown said after practice Monday. 

Embiid, who was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, suffered a left knee contusion in Friday’s win over the Trail Blazers. He did not travel with the team to Atlanta on Saturday for the back-to-back series. 

Brown called the decision “precautionary.” Embiid did not practice Monday but took some light shots after. He was pre-scheduled to sit out Wednesday against the Bucks in accordance with his limitations for consecutive games. Embiid is reportedly expected to return Friday against the Rockets.

The standout rookie leaves a glaring hole on the court when he misses games. The Sixers are 2-10 when he does not play. For all the ways Embiid dominates at the basket (22.4 points over the last 10 games), there is an obvious difference on the defensive end without him. 

“It’s still about our defense, it’s still about running, it’s still about sharing the ball,” Brown said. “I think you go with Jahlil (Okafor) and Nerlens (Noel) and challenge them in relation to rim protection and what Joel provides us. The group around them also has got to perform at a higher level when you don’t have Joel. I think that second group that we have been playing, led by Nerlens, really can take on a far greater defensive identity than it has recently, and Nerlens will be the captain of that.”

This is a time when the Sixers’ logjam at the five-spot actually helps them. Brown still has three true centers to turn to, in addition to power forwards Ersan Ilyasova and Dario Saric, whom he could slide into the position if they go small. Brown sees a silver lining for his bigs in the uphill battle of playing without Embiid. 

“It definitely hurts the team, how can we spin it any other way?” Brown said. “But like anything, you’re going to now look at Nerlens and Jahlil. This is fantastic for those two. It could prove, based on some things, Richaun (Holmes) sees daylight a little bit. 

“There aren’t many teams, I would suspect, that have the ability to roll out three young guys when somebody like Joel goes down and look forward to watching them develop more, look forward to giving them the opportunity to play NBA minutes.”

Okafor has been receiving the start when Embiid is out. (He has been out of the rotation when Embiid does play.) Okafor, though, is dealing with right knee soreness he experienced on Saturday. The Sixers kept an eye on him Monday and held him out of 5-on-5 drills in practice. Okafor said the team was being cautious, and he wanted to rest his knee given the number of games coming up. He is listed as probable against the Clippers.

“It was bothering me a little bit in the warmup lines, I started to feel it. When I got going, it started feeling really good, then when I sat out for an extended period, it got kind of sore on me again,” Okafor explained. “Today they were trying to make sure I could get back to being 100 percent because they knew that my knee was bothering me. They haven’t really told me what the plan was for tomorrow. Today was really focused on getting me back to being healthy.”

The Clippers are shorthanded, as well. Blake Griffin has been sidelined since Dec. 18 because of a right knee procedure and Chris Paul had surgery to repair a ligament tear in his left thumb. Griffin could make his return against the Sixers.

Embiid's honor
Embiid's Player of the Week honor is rare for a rookie. He's only the third Sixers rookie ever to win it, joining Allen Iverson and Michael Carter-Williams.

The last Sixer before Embiid to be named Eastern Conference Player of the Week was Thaddeus Young in January 2014.

The Sixers won all three games Embiid played last week. He averaged 22.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks.