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

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

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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.

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Brett Brown left training camp last September with an unsettling feeling. He had just completed long days of scrimmages, drills and planning, and yet he sensed the Sixers were not ready to tackle the 82 games that lied ahead. 

“I remember driving back to Philadelphia last year knowing in my heart of heart that this group was going to be challenged,” Brown said Thursday following the morning practice session at Stockton University. “That was a frightening drive home. That drive home scared me because I felt like, I know what we have and how are we going to be able to maneuver through this?”

Brown was right. The Sixers lost their first 18 games and began the season 1-30. They stumbled the rest of the way, finishing the 2016-17 campaign with a dismal 10-72 record. 

“We really didn’t know who the point guard was,” Brown said. “We came in extremely injured, we were trying to make the Nerlens [Noel]-Jahlil [Okafor] thing work, there really weren’t a lot of veterans to look around [and see], and you knew it.”

Now in his fourth training camp as head coach, with 47 wins and 199 losses with the Sixers behind him, Brown has different emotions as the team nears the end of training camp on Friday. 

Instead of a constantly-changing lineup of players, the Sixers are building a roster that can serve as the foundation for the future. There are nine new players on the team, including first overall pick Ben Simmons and rookie Dario Saric. Joel Embiid will make his NBA debut after two years of injuries, and the Sixers added veteran leaders in free agency.

Brown has a clearer picture of what the team could look like this season and beyond. He is coaching training camp to enter a new chapter, not to simply make it through the upcoming months. 

“You can leave and you can sniff reality,” Brown said. “Now what I see is there’s depth. There are challenges positionally as we’ve talked about. But there’s talent. There’s point guards. They’re sprinkled in with some veterans. How we grow it and play it is still on the table. To me, it’s a completely different feeling that I have now that I did not have last year.”

The additions of Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez at the one spot lessen the coaching load for Brown. He also can turn to T.J. McConnell from last season. The depth is a far cry from when the Sixers were quickly changing at that position and didn’t find a consistent starter until they traded for Ish Smith in late December.

“That position, I think, is vital when you start putting a bunch of 20-year-olds around it and trying to find some type of organization,” Brown said. “You just can’t replace a point guard’s intellect. You can’t replace, I think, somebody that has great command from that position. It certainly helps me.”

Brown expects to feel “proud” when the Sixers wrap training camp on Friday. He is looking forward to getting the season underway, beginning with two practices at the new training complex in Camden before their first preseason game Oct. 4 against the Celtics. 

Brown anticipates his drive home this time will be a much different trip. 

“I feel comfortable that we’re ticking boxes and we’re achieving the goals that we set out from the start of what we wanted to get done in Stockton,” he said.

The Sixers continued to monitor load management on Thursday, as Okafor, Embiid and Gerald Henderson did not participate in the morning scrimmage. Bayless also did not go through the scrimmage because of a sore left wrist. 

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers' abundance of big men lends itself to numerous combinations in the frontcourt.

On Thursday, Nerlens Noel had his first experience playing with Ben Simmons. The center gelled with the rookie forward.

"It's a great duo, I think," Noel said following the morning practice session of training camp at Stockton University.

Noel has been paired with many big men during his career with the Sixers. Last season, he faced the challenge of playing out of position at times with Jahlil Okafor. The logjam prompted him to speak out about the current makeup of the roster (see story).

After playing with Simmons, Noel saw how the two can share the court.

"I think we complement each other very well, especially on the defensive end," Noel said. "He's definitely a lockdown type defender that digs in."

Even though Simmons has yet to play an NBA game, Noel already envisions how he can help the Sixers.

"He just plays basketball the right way," Noel said. "When your big man does that, it makes it a lot easier because he is very versatile being a point-forward type. That opens up a lot of things for him to be able to open up for his teammates."