MCW's triple-double lifts Sixers to 2OT victory

slideshow-sixers-michael-carter-williams-uspresswire.jpg

MCW's triple-double lifts Sixers to 2OT victory

BOX SCORE

A decade from now when Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo are wrapping up their playing careers, perhaps Tuesday night’s game at the Wells Fargo Center will be the one folks point to as birth of the rivalry.

Two big guards, both born in the east coast, and played at power college programs before being selected in the same draft, seem to bring out the best in each other.

Who knows, maybe the Carter-Williams and Oladipo rivalry will be the updated version of Bird and Magic …

In the Sixers’ 126-125 double-overtime victory over the Magic on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay), Carter-Williams and Oladipo both notched the first triple-doubles of their careers. Carter-Williams had been flirting with one on several occasions this season, falling a couple rebounds or a steal shy in three different games.

Oladipo hasn’t been close to a triple-double until Tuesday night, picking the perfect moment to have career bests in nearly every statistical category.

So with Carter-Williams going for 27 points with a career-high 12 rebounds and 10 assists on a swollen knee and Oladipo notching 26 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, the duo became the first rookies to get triple-doubles in the same game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Carter-Williams, who was named the NBA's Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month on Tuesday (see story), was the first rookie to get a triple-double this season. Oladipo quickly followed. The Sixers’ point guard also is the first player to get a triple-double in his first 15 games since John Wall did it in his sixth game in 2010.

“I think they will have a nice little competition against each other for years to come,” Sixers center Spencer Hawes said. “They both have unique skill sets.”

Carter-Williams, a 6-foot-6 point guard, was selected 11th in last June’s draft. Oladipo, from Upper Marlboro, Md. and the University of Indiana, was drafted No. 2 overall. The rookies know each other from their high school days as well as in last March’s NCAA Tournament, when Carter-Williams’ Syracuse squad sent Oladipo and Indiana home in the East Regional Semifinals.

Oladipo says it was nice to get a triple-double against a friend, though he’d prefer the victory. Carter-Williams played down the talk of a rivalry.

“Clearly there’s a competitive side to it, but this is a team game,” Carter-Williams said. “It’s not me versus Oladipo. It’s the Sixers versus Orlando. It’s definitely a team game and I just wanted to get the win. At the end of the day that’s all that matters, regardless of what the stats say.”

Still, Carter-Williams and Oladipo are so unique that their accomplishment dwarfed a wild, thrilling game. For the Magic, Arron Afflalo scored a career-high 43 points on 14-for-27 shooting, while Thad Young had 25 points and 12 rebounds with several clutch hoops and defensive plays down the stretch of regulation and overtime.

Meanwhile, Glen “Big Baby” Davis scored a career-high 33 points and hit a three-pointer for the first time since April of 2012 to help the Magic overcome a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter and a five-point deficit in the first overtime period.

But when Evan Turner fouled out with 4:44 to go in the second overtime, the game fell to Carter-Williams.

“That’s who we went to at the end,” Hawes said. “We put the ball in [Carter-Williams’] hands and trusted that he would make the right decision and he did.”

Carter-Williams had a pair of assists in the second overtime to put him over the top for the triple-double, finding Young and James Anderson in the paint for layups. But more the than numbers, Carter-Williams controlled the pace of the game and made sure the ball moved to the proper spot.

It wasn’t always easy, though. Carter-Williams had seven turnovers and played 47 minutes, mostly with a limp and a swollen right knee that head coach Brett Brown said was “a legit injury.” Afterwards, the rookie conceded that he felt a lot of pain in his knee, though it’s too early to determine if he will be available to play on Friday in Charlotte.

But Carter-Williams sure played on Tuesday night and with Oladipo, gave the crowd a great show. Even Brown took the time to enjoy how the game unfolded.

“When you see them swarm Michael when he drives, and Oladipo has that great lateral quickness and is excellent in anticipating when Michael would spin,” Brown said. “I just felt like you saw two long, athletic point guards going head-to-head in a pretty exciting game.”

It was especially exciting for the Sixers because they snapped a four-game losing streak and improved to 7-12 this season, a half-game behind Boston for first place in the Atlantic. The Sixers also won despite Orlando shooting 50 percent from the field after previously going 1-21 over the last two seasons when the opposition shoots 50 percent or better.

The team returns to action on Friday night in Charlotte before returning home to face Denver on Saturday night.

Sixers-Hawks 5 things: Looking to keep win streak alive without Joel Embiid

Sixers-Hawks 5 things: Looking to keep win streak alive without Joel Embiid

Sixers (15-26) at Hawks (25-18)
7 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30

Coming off a thrilling comeback win over the Trail Blazers on Friday, the Sixers travel to Atlanta to take on the Hawks at Phillips Arena in the second game of a back-to-back. 

1. Going streaking
It's been a long time since the Sixers have had anything resembling a winning streak. No longer is that the case, as the Sixers have won three straight games, with Friday's win capping their fifth-straight home win. 

The Sixers have also won eight of their last 10 games — with only the Warriors posting a better record during that span — and are playing with a confidence and energy that hasn't been seen in Philly for years. 

One streak they'll try to end, however, is their recent losing streak to the Hawks, as the Sixers haven't beaten Atlanta in six straight matchups.

2. Injury scare
Fans at the Wells Fargo Center held their breath Friday night as Joel Embiid came down awkwardly on his left knee and came up limping. 

Embiid ran to the locker room on his own and was cleared to return to the game, though he never did. He was diagnosed with a left knee contusion and said after the game that everything was fine.

"I'm great," he said. "The knee's fine. They did an MRI and stuff, and everything looked good."

Despite not having Embiid for the final minutes of Friday's game, the Sixers were able to pull together and rally for a 93-92 win over the Blazers. 

Injury precaution aside, Embiid won't travel with the Sixers to Atlanta, as he was scheduled to miss the game against the Hawks because it was the second game of a back-to-back. 

3. Playoffs?
Hey, crazier things have happened, so let's not rule this one out. 

With the Sixers in the midst of their hottest stretch in recent years, Embiid has the team and city thinking playoffs. After notching yet another win Friday night, the Sixers are just 4½ games back from the eighth seed in the East. 

"I look at it every day," Embiid said Friday. "We’re coming for those playoff spots. We’re going to keep on getting better, keep working and winning games."

If the wins actually do keep coming, this might be something to keep an eye on as we get deeper into the season. 

4. Tall task 
With Embiid scheduled to miss Saturday's game against the Hawks, the Sixers will lean on Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel to carry the load in place of their superstar center. 

A night after facing a dynamic backcourt featuring Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, the Sixers will turn their attention to the dominant frontcourt duo of Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard. 

Millsap comes in averaging 17.8 points and 8.1 rebounds, while Howard averages 13.7 points and an incredible 13 rebounds per game. Without Embiid, the Sixers might have a hard time stopping Millsap and Howard from having their way in the paint. 
 
5. This and that
• The Sixers have made three go-ahead field goals in the final five seconds of the fourth quarter/OT this season — the most in the NBA.

• The Sixers have 15 wins at the halfway point of the season. They had just 10 wins total all of last season. 

• Jahlil Okafor last played on Jan. 14 against the Wizards, posting 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the floor. 

• The Sixers are 13-17 with Embiid, but just 2-9 without him. 

Robert Covington, Sixers show 'swagger' without Joel Embiid in comeback win

Robert Covington, Sixers show 'swagger' without Joel Embiid in comeback win

BOX SCORE

The Sixers began the season looking lost without Joel Embiid. Now they are finding ways to win when he is not on the court. 

Embiid suffered a left knee contusion in the second half of Friday’s 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers (see story). He was sidelined for the decisive 8:50 of the game (see Instant Replay).

The Sixers trailed, 81-78, when he subbed out for the second time because of the injury, and outscored the Trail Blazers, 15-11, from that point on.

So how was this team that battled with inconsistency and reliance on Embiid able to pull out a comeback win punctuated in the final seconds? Ask the Sixers and they’ll give varying answers, a sign they are getting the job done in multiple ways and aren’t relying on just one key to success.

The most glaring difference was the hero of the game. Robert Covington drained two three-pointers in the final 40 seconds. His trey from Dario Saric with 38.2 remaining cut the Trail Blazers' lead to just one, 91-90. With 4.5 to go, he nailed the game-winning three from T.J. McConnell to give the Sixers their eighth victory in 10 games (see feature highlight).

“That’s resilient Cov,” Nerlens Noel said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a good shot or a bad shot; he’ll pull it in your face. That’s the confidence he has and that’s the confidence we need him to have. He steps up and makes two big shots like that, that’s enough said. He won us that game.”

Critics have called out Covington’s up-and-down performance from three all season. (They’ve made their feelings known with loud boos at home games.) Covington shot 5 for 12 behind the arc on the night but his 2 for 3 performance in the fourth was what mattered most. 

“I am a fighter, that’s what I have been my whole life,” he said. “Just because fans are booing me at one point doesn't mean anything. I just keep working. I am not going to let that deteriorate my game. It goes in one ear and out the other.”

Without Embiid in the game, the Sixers had to rely on a total team effort. After he went to the bench, the final points were scored by a combination of Covington, Gerald Henderson, Noel, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and McConnell.

“Ball movement,” head coach Brett Brown said. “We had 25 assists out of 36 made baskets. It’s not like we’re going to give the ball to Damian Lillard (guard for the Blazers). That’s not who we are. Whatever we do, it has to be done by committee, by a group, by a team. It’s even more exposed when Joel isn’t in the game. They did that. Unlikely people ended up with the ball sometimes in unlikely spots. … You have to move the ball. That’s what the team has learned without Joel.” 

Several of the players on the court in critical moments were from the second unit. Since Brown locked in on his rotation, the reserves don’t have a drop-off in confidence from the starters. 

“It’s the mentality,” Covington said. “Everybody has that swagger about us right now because once Joel comes out, the next person steps in and fills that void. It’s a matter of that contagious feeling that trickles into the second unit that’s making us that much more valuable.”

Then there's always defense, the foundation of any solid NBA team and a focal point for the Sixers. Noel saw that as the difference-maker when subbing in and out. The Trail Blazers scored just two points in the final 1:56. 

"The second unit goes there and does a great job guarding the yard, not letting up easy baskets," Noel said. "The offensive side is fluid motion. Guys get shots, pick-and-roll, it opens up open threes for guys, driving lines, pump fakes, it’s a great unity."

Embiid liked what he saw from a distance. He will not travel with the team to their game on Saturday against the Hawks in Atlanta. 

"I’m just happy we’ve been closing out games, and the main thing I’m really happy [about] is they’ve been able to do it without me," he said. "That’s going to give us a lot of confidence when I’m missing back-to-backs. My teammates are going to have more confidence to come in and play the same way."