NSFWFC: Sixers Line Up for the Heat in Season Home Opener

NSFWFC: Sixers Line Up for the Heat in Season Home Opener

Poor, poor Michael Carter-Williams. It was already gonna be a struggle for him in his NBA debut--the 22-year-old rookie has game, we think, but it's gonna take a minute for it to translate on this level--but premiering against the Miami Heat, he might try to re-declare for his senior season at Syracuse before the night's over. The blitzing perimeter D of Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole (and the hard-trapping help D from their forwards and bigs) brought Linsanity to an end, and ruined Derrick Rose's first game back from ACL surgery last night in Miami, holding the former MVP to just 12 points on 4-15 shooting. Against MCW...there will be tears, for sure.

Of course, that's not to say that the rest of the Sixers' lineup will have it that much easier--Evan Turner has had some nice games against the Heat (including his own debut game, on opening night three seasons ago), but the Liberty Ballers have still won just one of their last 20 against the Heat, and even that one took a miracle three from Lou Williams--you remember the one.

No, the Sixers are not gonna have an easy one tonight, though they will be getting a couple breaks in this one--not only are the Heat on the second to night of a back-to-back after an emotional, hard-fought season opener against Chicago, but they'll be without All-NBA guard Dwyane Wade--though really, all that means is that the Heat will be able to spread the floor better with Ray Allen or James Jones in his stead and let LeBron really pick the Sixers apart. One or two breaks isn't nearly enough to make up the gap in quality between these two teams.

All we can really hope for tonight is for early contention and late survival. If the Sixers can at least keep it close for a quarter or two, get nice performances from Evan and Thaddeus Young, and get MCW the hell out of there before the scarring becomes permanent, then that'll have to count as the moral victory for the evening. Not much, but ti's all we're gonna have for at least our first couple games and possibly a lot longer, so get used to it.

Adding insult to injury (and more insult) tonight is that in Cleveland, it appears that our old friend Andrew Bynum will be bucking the odds and actually playing in the Cavs' season opener (supposedly). Bynum has been cleared for game action, though he will not start, and nobody really has much of a clue what he'll look like out on the court. While I don't necessarily wish eternal misery upon the Bynum household, I'm not gonna deny that I'ma be a little salty if he just straight up plays for this Cleveland team and, like, doesn't miss pretty much the entire season for no real reason. Harumph.

Whatever. We have Sixers basketball, real (mostly) professional basketball, and that's enough excitement in itself for me tonight. Get ready for the big ride tonight, guys, and if you are not sufficiently pumped, get yourself there with our 2013-14 Sixers Official Spotify Playlist. Go Ballers.

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The Sixers are the perfect distraction from the Sixers

The Sixers are the perfect distraction from the Sixers

There's your Philadelphia 76ers season in a nutshell, huh? Nerlens Noel gets traded for an all-lemon pack of Starbursts, Ben Simmons' right foot is still apparently stuck in a beartrap, Joel Embiid can't get himself dismissed from the nurse's office, and Jahlil Okafor is forced back into +1 status after everyone else passed on going to the concert with Bryan Colangelo -- and the Ballers still go out and beat one of the best teams in the East in their first game back from the All-Star break. Nearly everything about the Sixers is depressing right now, except for the team themselves. They're cool. 

Kudos to Brett Brown, man. The team is playing with such fluency and energy right now that it can withstand some losses in personnel without the drop-off being particularly dramatic -- at least for the moment. Replacing Embiid and Noel with Okafor and Holmes for as long as we'll have to do it will catch up with us in time, but for now, all you can do is marvel at the pace, cohesion and (with some mildly glaring moments of exception) discipline that Brown has the guys playing at the moment. I doubt there are five coaches in the league having a more impressive season than him right now. 

But the players were pretty good in this one, too. Dario Saric had 20-11-4 in his first start in three weeks, continuing his unlikely Rookie of the Year surge with his third-straight double-double and fourth game of 20-plus in his last six games. The All-Star Break hasn't cooled Robert Covington's hot hand, as the shooter went 5-9 from deep last night and is now 17-31 on threes over his last four games, also posting a 20-10 night with his 25 points and 11 boards. (Also three assists and four steals, whatever.) Richaun Holmes dunked over some people and reminded a handful of fans why they've gotten way too excited about him at various points earlier in the year. Good times were had by all. 

Games like last night's also just remind you how marginal the difference between winning and losing is. As they've been wont to do forever, the Sixers blew their considerable lead to the Wizards late in this one, which would've undoubtedly resulted in a tragic loss in years past. But these days, the leads are a little bigger going into the Sixers' fourth-quarter tailspins, and their defense is just a little tighter on critical possessions, and that's the difference between losing on a Bradley Beal buzzer-beater and hitting just enough free throws to squeak out a mildly secure 120-112 victory. 

Anyway, after an impossibly discouraging week of Sixers happenings, it turns out some actual Sixers basketball is just what we needed. Hopefully their level of play will continue to get better as news of their off-court developments invariably keeps getting worse .

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

TORONTO -- DeMar DeRozan scored a career-high 43 points and the Toronto Raptors rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat the Boston Celtics 107-97 on Friday night.

DeRozan shot 15 of 28 from the floor as he surpassed his 42-point effort against the Houston Rockets on March 30, 2015, helping the Raptors overcome the absence of fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry. Lowry sat out with a right wrist injury.

Serge Ibaka, acquired by trade from the Orlando Magic last week, scored 15 points in his debut, while fellow newcomer P.J. Tucker, picked up from the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, had a game-high 10 rebounds and nine points in his first game for his new team.

Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points for Boston, which also got 19 points each from Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart (see full recap).

Westbrook triple-double lifts Thunder over Lakers
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook scored 17 points in his 28th triple-double of the season, and his new teammates fit in seamlessly as the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 110-93 on Friday night.

Westbrook also had 18 rebounds and 17 assists for the 65th triple-double of his career.

It was the first game for new Thunder players Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, acquired Thursday in a trade with the Chicago Bulls. Gibson scored 12 points and McDermott added eight, even though they arrived Thursday night and weren't even available for shootaround on Friday.

Alex Abrines and Andre Roberson each set a career high with 19 points, and Steven Adams added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder.

D'Angelo Russell scored 29 for the Lakers (see full recap).

Pacers beat Grizzlies to snap six-game skid
INDIANAPOLIS -- CJ Miles made five 3-pointers and scored 17 points, Paul George had nine points and nine rebounds after remaining with Indiana following the trade deadline, and the Pacers snapped a six-game losing streak with a 102-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

Monta Ellis finished with 16 points, Myles Turner scored 12, and Lavoy Allen, Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young each added 10 for the Pacers.

The Pacers outscored the Grizzlies 64-42 across the middle two quarters and never relinquished their lead, leading by as many as 27 points in the second half. The Grizzlies finished the game shooting 41 percent from the floor (35 for 84).

Troy Daniels had 13 points for Memphis and Marc Gasol scored 12. Indiana outrebounded Memphis 50-39 and scored 29 points off 17 Grizzlies turnovers (see full recap).