The Sixers had lost 19 of 20 to the Heat prior to Wednesday's 114-110 season-opening win. (USA Today Images)
No matter what one thought of the Sixers going into Wednesday night’s opener against the Miami Heat, the poise the team showed was quite remarkable. To open the season with a 19-0 run and close out the game by overcoming a late, eight-point deficit was jaw dropping.
But for those who think that an opening night win over the two-time defending NBA champions can carry a team for a few games, forget it. The Sixers don’t believe that for a second.
It’s just one game.
“No, we’re on to the next game,” said Thad Young after the opening-night stunner. “We have Washington [on Friday night] and it’s going to be a whole different ballgame and a whole different scheme. They aren’t as good of a team as the Miami Heat, but you can get beat on any given day so we’ll take it day by day.”
Young, at 25, has been in the league for seven years and there isn’t much he hasn’t seen. Three years ago, the Sixers opened the season with a 3-13 record yet rallied to finish the season 41-41 to earn a spot in the playoffs. This year, with Young as the oldest active player on the roster, the Sixers are expected to be the worst team in the NBA.
So one assumes that after a win over the Heat, the youthful Sixers will be a little full of themselves and will need a veteran like Young to help keep it in perspective. That goes especially for Michael Carter-Williams, who began his NBA career with an epic performance, posting 22 points, 12 assists, nine steals and seven rebounds (see story).
Actually, according to Young and rookie NBA head coach Brett Brown, the veterans might take their cues from the rookie point guard.
“He’s just going to take it and go,” Young said. “[Carter-Williams] knows he has a tough stretch coming up. I believe it’s John Wall, Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving and when you have point guards like that coming in, I think he’s going to be focused on the next game.”
Indeed, Carter-Williams and the Sixers will be tested early and often. After the Heat, the Sixers face much-improved Washington Wizards and lightning-quick point guard Wall on Friday night at the Verizon Center. They follow that one up against the Chicago Bulls and former MVP point guard Rose.
Then comes the Golden State Warriors and high-scoring point guard Stephen Curry, followed by Wall again and back-to-backs against the Cleveland Cavaliers and third-year All-Star point guard, Irving.
That’s quite a baptism for Carter-Williams and it also serves as a big test for the Sixers. In the meantime, the win over the Heat should give the team a little bounce.
“At the end of the day, it’s a basketball game,” Carter-Williams said, echoing the sentiment of his older teammates. “We’re all basketball players here, so we have a lot of confidence in ourselves. Miami is a great team. We made a statement and stayed together as a team and that’s what we’re going to have to do all season.”
At the very least, the victory over the Heat will keep the Sixers believing they are on the right path.
“It’s early. We have this in perspective,” Brown said. “But those signs were real. To go down to a team like Miami and then find some chemistry and toughness to get back in it is a fantastic sign.”