How about this for a lead: Tonight, in his first-ever start in the NBA (filling in for MCW and his bad arches), Tony Wroten--the point guard the Sixers bought from Memphis for a couple free tickets to the Please Touch Museum--racked up a triple-double, with 18 points, 11 dimes and ten boards, easily setting career highs in assists and rebounds and tying his career high in points. And guess what? That was only the third-most remarkable thing, and only the second-most remarkable performance, about the Sixers-Rockets game tonight.
The first-most, of course, was that they won at all--in overtime, by a score of 123-117. James Harden not being there for Houston certainly helped matters, though we countered that a little with Michael Carter-Williams' absence, but regardless, the Rockets probably should have taken care of business in this one, leading for the great majority of the second half and getting a 34-point, nine-three-pointer performance from Jeremy Lin. But the Sixers got a little lucky with a late-game three to tie it up, Chandler Parsons got off a lousy shot to win it, and the teams went to OT, where the Sixers just had a little too much magic for the Rock Boys to handle.
And the person who hit that late three? None other than our starting two-guard James Lee Anderson---who, after scoring 55 points across his first eight games as a 76er, dialed up an absolutely incredible 36 points on 12-16 shooting, more than doubling his previous career high. Anderson's 36 is the second-most points for any non-Iverson Sixer in a game this century, falling just short of the 37 our old friend Willie Green put up against the Raptors at the end of the '06-'07 season. (Yes, that actually happened. Joe Smith had 26 and 11!)
And of course, it was Anderson who hit the biggest shot of the night, that contested top-of-the-arc three with six seconds to go that really had no business going in but decided hey, let's go in anyway, live dangerously, see what happens.
Not generally the kind of finally possession that dreams are made of, but as the prophet Jerry Reed once said, when you hot, you hot. And Anderson was certainly that tonight, hitting a couple looks early and finally locating his season-long-missing groove from deep, ending up a most acceptable 6-8 from deep. Anderson had gotten flak from a lot of people for only hitting on 9-27 from three to start the season, but after his night tonight, he's raised his percentage from range by ten points, and is now shooting an imminently respectable 43% from deep. Has Sam Hinkie taught us nothing? Patience. Trust the process.
Anderson's hot shooting aside, it looked like the long-overdue emergence of Bad Evan Turner in the second half of this one might have been enough to do the Sixers in on its own. Evan was 6-10 at halftime, but went 3-13 for the rest of the night, taking far too many of the kinds of shots--pull-up jumpers, threes, pull-up threes--that he'd been so good at avoiding (and so smart to avoid) early this year.
To Brett Brown's credit, he seemed to make the conscious decision of taking the ball out of Evan's hands late in the fourth when it was clear he was spiraling out, letting the steady hand (!!!) of Tony Wroten run the show, with Spencer and Thad taking over as the offensive focus. And to Evan's credit, he played a large part in cooling off the red-hot Jeremy Lin on defense in the second half, and got a couple nice baskets in OT driving straight to the basket--no small feat with Dwight Howard and his six blocked shots (though c'mon, at least two-three of those were crystal-clear goaltends) patrolling the paint. ET also got to pad his stats a little at the end with some garbage free throws, ending with a very respectable 23/7/5 stat line, even if he needed 23 shots to get there.
And Wroten...dear lord, he was magnificent tonight. The decision-making is still pretty touch and go, and he always seems to go for the jaw-dropping whip pass even when a simpler pass will suffice (or no such pass is even really there in the first place), but he is just so dangerous turning the corner on the pick-and-roll, and if he can ever get anything even resembling a reliable jumper, he is going to be an absolute terror in this league. It's pretty clear at this point that at the very least, the Sixers got one of the steals of the off-season in T-Wrote, and the development of his game should be one of the top priorities for Brett Brown over the next few seasons.
Before we wrap on this one, we gotta take a minute to shout out the Big GOPper, Spencer Hawes, who chipped in 18 points, nine boards, four assists, three blocks and three steals, as well as playing excellent--no, really, excellent--post defense on Dwight Howard. And even though it'll never not be hilarious when he pulls up from behind the arc, we should probably point out that Spence is now shooting a stunning 17-34--that's right, 50%--from downtown, making his range shooting a legitimate weapon for this Sixers team. You still gotta put up with the occasional out-of-bounds fumble of the post feed here and there, and he's in danger of being posterized the second he steps on the court, but Hawes has been a legitimate starter for us this year, and should be able to fetch us a nice return come trade season if he's able to keep it up a little longer.
5-4. The Sixers will reach double digits in games this season, Friday night in Atlanta, before they post their first losing record. I didn't think they'd even have one yet. Can we just give Brett Brown the Coach of the Year trophy right now? Just give it to him. Don't be jerks about it.