Sixers ride Anderson, Wroten in overtime win

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Sixers ride Anderson, Wroten in overtime win

BOX SCORE

To be fair, not even the Sixers saw this coming. Especially coach Brett Brown.

Nine games into a season in which the roster was quickly cobbled together with no active players older than 25 and a coach who wasn’t hired until August, and the Sixers are 5-4 following a thrilling 123-117 overtime victory over the high-scoring Houston Rockets on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).

The Sixers pulled it off thanks to a triple-double from guard Tony Wroten (18 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds) in his first NBA start and a career-high 36 points from James Anderson, who hit six three-pointers and shot 12 for 16. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Wroten is the first player since the league kept track of triple-doubles (1970-71) to get a triple-double in his first career start.

Anderson and Wroten?

It was that duo that saved the game for the Sixers with seconds left in regulation. With the Sixers down by three points after a pair of foul shots from Patrick Beverley, Wroten told Anderson to be ready for a pass in the corner. But when the Rockets forced Wroten into the far corner and Anderson strayed away from the opposite one, it appeared as if the Sixers were trapped.

But Wroten turned, leapt and fired a two-handed pass over the top of the defense. Amazingly, Anderson caught the pass, squared up and rose for the game-tying 25-footer from the top of the three-point circle.

Splash!

After the game, Wroten said he noticed that Jeremy Lin was face-guarding Anderson so he thought if he put the pass high enough, Anderson could come down with it.

“Out of the timeout I told him, ‘I’m going to come off the screen and I’m going to hit you in the corner,’” Wroten explained. “But he wasn’t open, so I kept probing and ran out of options. But he was hot, so I just threw it up to him and it’s fortunate for him to make that.”

Anderson said the toughest part of the play was catching the ball. Once he got his hands on it, Anderson knew he’d have a clean look at the hoop.

“Tony told me he was going to look for me, but I was in the wrong spot,” Anderson said. “Somehow he still found me and I was just fortunate to get a shot up.”

Anderson went into the game with 55 points for the season and was shooting 9 for 27 on three-pointers. He also had garnered a tag that he was player that was good at a lot of things but great at nothing. Still, Brown, who was with the Spurs when the team drafted Anderson, said it was just a matter of time for him to find his stroke.

“We drafted him with the idea that he was a scorer. He was an athletic wing,” Brown said. “Maybe he was a shooter, maybe he was a driver, maybe he was a good offensive rebounder. He was all those things, but he was a scorer and to see all the different ways he scored tonight, that’s the way he was at Oklahoma State and that’s why he was drafted.”

The Sixers were fortunate Anderson’s shot went in. From that point, the team committed just one more turnover and hit 11 out of 12 foul shots to slip past the Rockets. The catch and the shot saved the day.

The pass? It worked out, too.

So coach, this 5-4 start to the season with victories over Miami, Chicago and Houston is kind of surprising … right?

“Yes,” Brown said.

Or is it?

OK, a win over the back-to-back NBA champion Miami Heat was a stunner and so was the come-from-behind victory over the Bulls in the second game of a back-to-back. But to beat the Rockets without rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams in a game in which Lin set a floor record with nine three-pointers and the Sixers committed seven turnovers in the fourth quarter … that’s pushing it.

But there it is. The young Sixers have shown a late-game tenacity and toughness that belies their age. It seems as when the action gets more heated and the margin for error is paper thin, the Sixers pull together even tighter.

How can a team that has been together a little more than a month have such great chemistry?

“I feel proud of them in regard to their competitive spirit,” Brown said. “I think when you just throw people together -- some players, a coach, a team -- we have no right to have an inherent chemistry or comradery. We’ve just sort of been introduced the past few months. So to manufacture anything like that and think that’s how it happens is very naïve. And I think there are signs that the group trusts each other and enjoys playing with each other and has each other’s back. We’re not going to roll over.”

Down by 10 points with nine minutes left in regulation, the Sixers tightened up on defense and didn’t roll over. Though Lin made those nine three-pointers for 34 points to go with 12 assists in a spot start for James Harden (out with a sore foot), the Sixers forced him to turn it over eight times.

Meanwhile, three Rockets had double-doubles, one by Dwight Howard, who had 23 points, 15 rebounds, six assists and six blocked shots. On top of all of that, the Rockets attempted just five long two-pointers and made 15 three-pointers.

And yet the Sixers had all the answers when it mattered most.

Next, the Sixers hit the road for three games in four days. They open the trip in Atlanta on Friday followed by a game in New Orleans on Saturday. The trip ends on Monday in Dallas before the Sixers come home to face the Raptors next Wednesday.

Sixers Mailbag: Joel Embiid's return, signing Kyle Lowry?

Sixers Mailbag: Joel Embiid's return, signing Kyle Lowry?

This week I tweeted asking for questions for a Sixers mailbag, and the replies came pouring in. (Thanks, everyone!)

So we changed it up and in addition to answering the questions in these articles, we also discussed some of the topics on PST Extra. Read below and watch the video for the responses.

If you tweeted a question with #CSNSixersMailbag and don't see it on here, there will be plenty more answered leading up to the draft and free agency.

Both players are planning to return to the court during the offseason.

Joel Embiid recently said he intends to be ready for opening night and to play all 82 games next season. That would mean he has a lot of work to do before then. Embiid, who underwent knee surgery in March, has been pleased with his rehab and is scheduled for another scan. He has not been jumping and plans to be cleared for 5-on-5 this summer.

"Every day I go in and do some rehab on my knee, on my whole body basically," Embiid said last week at the draft lottery. "Then [I] get on the court, shoot a little bit flat-footed, and then lift. After lifting, I go in the pool and [on the] treadmill and then start running in the pool. Usually, I'm there for about four, five hours every day."

Covington underwent surgery for a right meniscus tear in mid-April. He actually began his rehab before the procedure, which doctors told him could cut down on his recovery time. Following the surgery, the Sixers announced Covington was expected to "resume basketball activities" this summer.

Training camp is still months away. The players will be closely watched during that period before their availability and minutes are determined for the start of the season.

Rye.

And for the non-question, I'll give that a reply too. I see this point of view: draft a young small forward and bring in an experienced guard. I could envision an opposite scenario, though.

The Sixers could bolster their perimeter play through free agency or a trade. They lacked depth at small forward last season. A player with years on his résumé could fill that void faster than a rookie who will need time to develop into an NBA player.

As for Lowry, there's no question he can improve any NBA team. As I noted a few weeks ago, he is at a different stage in his career than the Sixers are in their progress. The Sixers also have Jerryd Bayless on the books to provide that veteran leadership to Ben Simmons as he learns how to play the one spot.

If I had to go with adding experience at one position or the other, I'd lean toward small forward over point guard.

NBA Notes: Cavs-Warriors III joins past championship trilogies

NBA Notes: Cavs-Warriors III joins past championship trilogies

It never happened between Magic Johnson's Lakers and Larry Bird's Celtics. Same for Michael Jordan and Karl Malone or Jerry West and Bill Russell.

While there have been 14 rematches in NBA Finals history, this year's meeting between LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers and Stephen Curry's Golden State Warriors will be the first trilogy in league history.

After the Warriors beat the Cavs for their first title in 40 years in 2015, Cleveland got revenge last season with a comeback from 3-1 down to give the city its first major championship since 1964. Now they meet for the rubber match starting June 1 in Oakland.

While this may be unprecedented in the NBA, it has happened once before in the NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball with matchups that included some of those sports' biggest stars.

There was Babe Ruth vs. Frankie Frisch in the 1920s and then a pair of memorable three-peat matchups in the 1950s featuring Otto Graham against Bobby Layne in the NFL and Gordie Howe against Maurice Richard in the NHL.

Warriors: Durant once team’s 2nd choice
Truth be told, Golden State's former coach wasn't sure the Warriors needed Kevin Durant.

The Warriors were already small-ball sensations, capable of piling up the points with their daring drives and sizzling shooting. So rather than add another scorer, Don Nelson figured Golden State might be better off getting a dominant man in the middle to shore up the defense in the 2007 NBA draft.

Nelson thought the Warriors needed Greg Oden.

That was 10 years ago, leading up to the heavily hyped draft in which the Oden-Durant debate raged throughout basketball. And now, as Durant leads the league's most potent team into the NBA Finals while Oden is long gone from the NBA spotlight, it's easy to forget that a lot of people agreed with Nelson.

"I think everyone felt that there were two players there that were going to be prominent players, but one thing you can't count on is injuries," Warriors executive Jerry West said. "So Greg really never had a chance to have a career, where Kevin's obviously been more than advertised."

Celtics: Thomas unsure if he’ll need surgery
Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas wanted to keep playing in the Eastern Conference finals, but team doctors and officials convinced him he needed to shut down his season for his long-term health.

"They had multiple people come in and talk to me about what's more important," Thomas said Friday, a day after the Celtics were eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers. "But I definitely wasn't trying to hear that at that point in time."

Thomas injured the hip in March and aggravated it in the second-round series against Washington. He played three halves against the Cavaliers before limping off the court in the middle of Game 2.

The Celtics lost that game by 44 points to fall behind 0-2 in the best-of-seven series, then announced the next day that Thomas was done for the season. Still, they beat the Cavaliers in Cleveland the next game before falling easily in Games 4 and 5.

"Eastern Conference finals, that's the biggest stage I've ever been on," Thomas said at the team's practice facility in Waltham, Massachusetts. "To not be able to go back out there in that second half and continue that series was painful. Like it hurt me."

Speaking for the first time since the end of his season, Thomas said he might need surgery but it's "not the No. 1 option right now." He will have to wait for more tests until the swelling goes down, he said (see full story).