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


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


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.

Despite shooting struggles, Dario Saric impressive in Sixers' regular-season debut

Despite shooting struggles, Dario Saric impressive in Sixers' regular-season debut

After two years filled with will he or won't he speculation over joining the Sixers, this certainly wasn't the effort Dario Saric had envisioned for his NBA regular-season debut. 

"I felt comfortable, but sometimes it's not your day and this was my bad day," said Saric, who scored five points in the Sixers' 103-97 season-opening loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. "I'll try to watch the video and fix what I can fix and move forward."

The raw numbers look bad. The rookie forward shot 2 of 12 from the field, including 0 of 4 from three-point range. He did notch seven rebounds and two assists, but also contributed two turnovers.

But as you know, numbers don't always tell the story. 

Saric displayed the offensive versatility and headiness on defense that had the Sixers salivating over him for two years while he played for Anadolu Efes in Turkey. He was able to penetrate in the lane several times against the Thunder on Wednesday night and used pump/head fakes to get his defender off balance, but the shots just didn't fall.

"He struggled with his shot" Sixers head coach Bett Brown said. "But just the physical play, some of the intellect of guarding things suddenly that we all might not pay attention to that coaches do. You see him go out of his way to make a rotation, that he just felt the game. I think that some of his pick-and-roll reads on trying to hit cutters, trying to slow up rollers and still go back to shooters like (Ersan) Ilyasova is, stood out to me.

"He's intelligent. He is a smart basketball player. The stats will show that he didn't make some of his shots, but I think that just that gamesmanship, that intellect stands out to me." 

The only time Saric looked a tad overmatched is when OKC went to its mustachioed muscle tandem of Steven Adams and Enes Kanter inside. After the game, Brown lamented leaving Saric in for so long against that pairing, which combined for 33 points and 17 rebounds on the night.

Teammate Jahlil Okafor tried to come to Saric's aid in those moments, but returning from a torn meniscus and on a minutes restriction, his plan wasn't exactly met with enthusiasm by the coaching staff.

"I actually kind of hinted to the coaches that I wanted to play with him (Embiid) because they put Kanter and Adams in," Okafor said. "I was kind of hinting to the coaches that if they want to play big ball we can play big ball with them."

Their response?

"Stay disciplined. Have your lawyer call my lawyer," Okafor said with a laugh. "That's the go-to line."

Even with Saric's few hiccups on defense, Okafor is confident the 22-year-old Croatian will be able to hold his own against NBA players and get the buckets to start dropping on the offensive end.

"I love Dario. It's been a pleasure having him around," Okafor said. "He's such a selfless guy.

"He did struggle a little bit with his shot, but all of the shots that he missed are shots that we know he can make and shots that we've seen him make since he's been here. So we're good. We know what he's going to do."

Lost in Joel Embiid's night, Jahlil Okafor returns with new role

Lost in Joel Embiid's night, Jahlil Okafor returns with new role

Joel Embiid’s regular-season debut headlined the Sixers' home opener Wednesday, a night two years in the making. He wasn’t the only player coming back from injury, though.

Jahlil Okafor took the court in a regular-season game for the first time since Feb. 28. Okafor underwent surgery in March to repair a right meniscus tear. He suffered a setback during training camp and was limited by soreness in that knee.

Okafor subbed in for Embiid with 7:47 remaining in the first quarter. He totaled eight points (4 for 10 from the field), three rebounds, one block, two fouls and three turnovers in 16 minutes, exceeding the Sixers’ initial minute projection of 12 to 14.

Okafor said his knee felt “good” after the game and did not experience discomfort. 

“I enjoyed myself,” Okafor said following the Sixers' 103-97 defeat to the Thunder (see Instant Replay). “Even though we lost, I enjoyed myself. We had a sold-out crowd. We had a hard-fought battle.”

Okafor’s role on Wednesday was different than it had been his rookie season. The former third overall pick is coming off the bench with a minutes restriction, broken down into segments. 

“It’s different for me,” Okafor said of his playing time. “I’m not used to playing in four-minute clumps. You’re more aware of when you’re going to go in. It kind of helps you a little bit. But it’s not something I want to get used to.”

Okafor is adjusting to a new in-game experience as a reserve. Last season, he started 48 of his 53 games and averaged 30.0 minutes. 

“My main thing was being able to come off the bench, which I’m not really used to, and still stay engaged, trying to stay loose,” Okafor said.

Opening night marked new starts for Okafor, as a player and a member of the Sixers (see 10 observations).

“I was taking a flashback to last year when we were 0-15, 0-16 and we so badly wanted to just restart the season,” he said. “Now we have the opportunity.”