Sixers' Carter-Williams standing up to the test

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Sixers' Carter-Williams standing up to the test

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NEWARK, Del. -- Michael Carter-Williams knows it’s going to be tough.

As a rookie point guard who just had his 21st birthday, the 6-foot-6, 185-pounder is ready for the pounding. He expects the opposing teams to get aggressive with him and make him work for every inch on the court. In Friday night’s 97-85 victory over the Boston Celtics at the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center (see Instant Replay), veteran Avery Bradley was gunning for Carter-Williams from the jump.

In fact, at one point during the first quarter, Bradley had been clutching and grabbing Carter-Williams so much that his shirt tail had come out of his shorts and was flapping in the breeze.

“I thought he was exceptional,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “Each game I see him, he does something that gets you even more excited. You hear about his potential and you think you know, and then all of a sudden you see him against arguably the best perimeter defender and he was physical and Michael didn’t back down. He went by him and I thought that his performance tonight against a very physical defender was excellent.”

It was rough, too. But Carter-Williams has stood up to the test. In three preseason games, including battles against Bradley and the Oklahoma City Thunder in England, Carter-Williams has committed just one turnover. In Friday night’s game against the Celtics, Carter-Williams had zero turnovers in 30 minutes.

The rookie had six points on six shots with six assists and six rebounds against the Celtics. He also added a steal and was a plus-21. He had no trouble finding Thad Young (20 points), Spencer Hawes (17 points) or Evan Turner (12 points, nine rebounds) as the Sixers rolled.

“I think I’m picking my poison a little bit,” Carter-Williams said. “I’m taking smarter chances and trying to squeeze some passes, but only once in a while. I try to make the simple play a lot and so far it’s been working.”

The 11th pick in last June’s draft, Carter-Williams was highly regarded for his athleticism and size as a point guard, though his shooting is a bit suspect. Moreover, rail thin and young, some felt Carter-Williams would have trouble with the older and stronger guards in the NBA. After all, every point guard goes through some growing pains, especially rookies.

But as he explained, Carter-Williams pays attention to the fundamentals. He’ll make the simple, correct play instead of the flashy one. That’s what a coach wants from a point guard. Especially a coach who was collegiate point guard and a son of a coach.

But not everything was perfect in Brown’s eyes. Yes, Carter-Williams was perfect in the turnover column, but he left plenty of room for improvement. Playing an up-tempo style of offense in which the goal is to get the ball and take off, the Sixers’ plan is to wear out the opposition. However, there were times during the second half when it appeared as if the Sixers were dragging a little bit.

Ideally, Brown said, the Sixers will move even faster with the ball and it will be up to Carter-Williams to make the team go.

“It has to be the way we play,” Brown said. “At times it scares the heck out of you because you turn it over a lot and we’ve said it’s going to happen and I’m prepared to live with some of that now. Hopefully, we can get a little smarter on the kick-aheads and some of those passes we’re throwing long. But pace has to be our identity. We put a premium on fitness and we want to get out and go.”

If Brown wants the offense to move faster, Carter-Williams isn’t going to argue. What player is going to argue with going faster?

“Whatever coach wants,” Carter-Williams said. “If he wants us to play faster, that’s what we’ll have to do. As a player, I’m going to adapt to that and try to play as fast as I can and as fast as [Brown] wants. I don’t think my turnovers will suffer from that.”

In other words, giddy-up.

The Sixers continue the exhibition season on Monday night when the Brooklyn Nets come to the Wells Fargo Center.

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).

Thrust into bigger role, Sixers' Holmes stars in win over Wizards

Thrust into bigger role, Sixers' Holmes stars in win over Wizards

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For as much as the Sixers’ bigs are talked about, Richaun Holmes often is left out of the conversation. 

He’s not the centerpiece of the team like Joel Embiid nor was he heavily involved in trade talks like Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. He is the backup center who bides his time on the bench and quietly stays ready when he gets the nod.

And on Friday, he was the standout player in the Sixers’ 120-112 win over the Wizards (see Instant Replay)

“He’s been sort of the person that people forget about because of the logjam of five men,” Brett Brown said. “We all sort of think, ‘Well, he should just accept it because he’s behind Joel and Nerlens and Jahlil. Good ol’ Richaun. Go to the D-League and it’s OK.’ And that doesn’t work. He’s a pro, he’s competitive. He’s handled it. He’s really been a wonderful teammate.”

Holmes was bumped up in the rotation following the trade of Noel to the Mavs. He moved into the second-unit role while Okafor started in place of the injured Embiid. 

Holmes recorded his first double-double with 12 points (6 for 9 from the field) and 10 rebounds (three offensive). He also blocked a career-high five shots, tying Embiid for the most by a Sixer this season. The second-year big man put together this impressive performance in 26 minutes off the bench. 

“Just play hard,” Holmes said of his approach. “Just go out there, show what you’ve been working on, play hard every second you’re out there. That’s the motto I’ve got.”

Holmes is averaging 16.1 minutes and has appeared in just 32 of the Sixers’ 57 games. This season he also spent time with the Delaware 87ers of the Development League to get playing time. Holmes embraced an opportunity similar to Friday’s a month ago when he scored 18 points in as many minutes against the Clippers. 

“I try to approach every game this season the same way, whether everybody was playing or people were hurt,” Holmes said. “Prepare like I’m going to play 30 minutes a game. I think having that mindset helped me to stay ready at all times and be aggressive when I had a chance.”

Brown did not rule out the possibility that Holmes could start at some point if he continues this production. The Sixers are limiting Okafor to 20 to 24 minutes per game, according to Brown. That, combined with Embiid’s injury, could lend itself to an increased role for Holmes. 

“I think in that environment, it wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary for Richaun to get a start from time to time,” Brown said. 

Even if he remains on the second unit, Holmes proved he can provide a spark off the bench. Dario Saric noted how Holmes’ impact on both ends of the floor bolsters the frontcourt in addition to a more offensively-minded Okafor (11 points, two rebounds). 

“I think he played unbelievably good in both ways,” Saric said. “Everybody knows he’s an elite guy finishing around the rim, and he stepped in Nerlens’ place, he replaced him unbelievably good. I hope he will get the same minutes for the next game because we have Jahlil, who is more like a post-up player, who likes more to score from the low-post block, and we for sure need some guy like Richaun who will play in both ways." 

Perhaps the person least surprised by Holmes' game was Holmes himself. It was the result he puts in long hours to produce.

“It’s all about the grind,” he said. “All about keep working, keep trying to move up, keep trying to get better every second and it’ll pay off.”