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.