Wow. Just wow.
What a debut by the rookie point guard out of Syracuse University. The basketball gods could not have scripted a better debut for the rookie as Michael Carter-Williams carried the Philadelphia 76ers to a shocking 114-110 victory over the Miami Heat in the season opener.
With all the talk leading up to the start of the regular season being about how much the Sixers would struggle this season and their astronomically low odds of winning the NBA Finals, no one could have envisioned this type of performance that the 76ers put on tonight. Entering the game, the Sixers had not beaten the Miami Heat in the regular season since the formation of the Big Three down in Miami.
Following the opening possession by the Heat, the 76ers would start the game on a 19-2 run and with five minutes gone passed in the quarter, led by a score of 17-0. Michael Carter-Williams would start the scoring outburst with a fast break dunk following the first of his nine steals. The rest of the team would feed off the rookie’s hot start as the 76ers hit their first eleven shots from the field to open up a 19-2 lead.
The Sixers’ defense pressured the Heat into making difficult passes and forced double teams out by half court to disrupt their early offensive strategies. The intensity and tenacity of their defense led to several fast break opportunities for the Sixers after forcing six first quarter turnovers by the Heat. One of these early fast break opportunities would result in an emphatic dunk by Evan Turner over Lebron James that sent the Wells Fargo Center into a frenzy.
By the end of the first quarter, the Sixers lead by a score of 33-14 and shot an incredible 73% (14-19) from the field. Led by Carter-Williams, Turner, and Spencer Hawes, the 76ers got off to a great start on both ends of the court. As a team, the Sixers accumulated eight assists, five steals, six Heat turnovers, and had eighteen fast break points.
Unfortunately, the hot start would not stem over into the second quarter. With King James getting into his groove offensively along with Ray Allen, Miami would storm back to close the gap against the Sixers. In the second and third quarters, everything seemed to be falling for the Heat. The Sixers’ perimeter defense was poor all night long, allowing wide open shots from all over the court including from behind the arc. As a team, the Heat shot 16-40 from behind the arc and 1-1 from behind mid-court as Allen drained the three-fourths court heave to end the third quarter.
Despite the Heat storming back to take the lead after the Sixers opened up the early twenty-two point advantage, the game remained close until the very end. Both the 76ers and Heat exchanged leads as the fourth quarter came down to the final minutes.
Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner were huge for the Sixers down the stretch and the entire game. Hawes provided the team with a much needed low post presence against the Heat by collecting nine rebounds and scoring 24 points including a huge three-point shot to give the Sixers the lead with less than two minutes remaining.
Turner entered this season with plenty of question marks surrounding the four-year guard, but with tonight’s showing, he may have answered a lot of those questions. Evan Turner had a huge game for the Sixers scoring 26 points. He was able to penetrate the lane for easy buckets and create open jump shots on the perimeter using his improved ball handling.
Tonight’s game, however, belonged to the twenty-two year old rookie Carter-Williams. MCW made his presence felt from the moment the game started and had one of the most dominant NBA debuts in NBA history. Carter-Williams finished with 22 points, 12 assists, 9 steals, 7 rebounds, and just one turnover. He also knocked down four three pointers. The nine steals were also an NBA record for most steals in a debut.
To overcome Lebron’s 25 point and 13 assist performance, the Sixers got contributions from almost everyone. Newcomers Tony Wroten and James Anderson combined to score 22 points on 9-17 shooting, while Daniel Orton and Lavoy Allen added solid minutes off the bench.
Tonight was a huge win for this Sixers team and hopefully a sign of things to come. The team will travel to Washington tomorrow to prepare for a Friday night match up with the new look Wizards.