Michael Carter-Williams Sets Rookie Record for Steals in Dazzling Debut

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistOctober 30, 2013

On the NBA's opening night, the Lakers' rag-tag group of bench players took down the NBA title-contending Clippers. One night later, a similar situation played itself out in Philadelphia, as Michael Carter-Williams turned in one of the best rookie debuts in NBA history and the 76ers pulled off a shocking 114-110 win over the Miami Heat

Carter-Williams, one of Philadelphia's two first-round picks, finished with 22 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and nine steals—an NBA record for a player's debut. His nine swipes also match the most in Sixers franchise history.

Allen Iverson, whose number was retired at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday, is the only player in Sixers history to have nine steals twice

Carter-Williams, one of the nation's most respected defenders while at Syracuse, made life for the Heat a near-Iversonian mess. He had pick-pocketed four balls and dished four assists by the end of the first quarter, leading Philadelphia to a dominant 33-14 opening frame that would buoy its victory. 

Although the Heat roared back with 80 combined points in the second and third quarters, the combination of Carter-Williams, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes made plays when they needed. The Sixers held Miami to 16 points and forced seven turnovers in the fourth quarter. LeBron James accounted for two of those fourth-quarter mistakes, all while finishing 1-of-4 from the field.

Oct 30, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) is double teamed by Philadelphia 76ers guard Evan Turner (12) and guard Michael Carter-Williams (1) during the first quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

When he wasn't picking pockets, Carter-Williams led a surprisingly efficient offense. Philadelphia shot just under 54 percent from the field and got to the rim with ease, making 24 baskets inside the restricted area. 

Oft-maligned for his struggles during summer league and the preseason, Carter-Williams had no trouble picking apart the Heat's helter-skelter defensive attack. He worked his way through traps and was seemingly always one step ahead of the help rotations with his passes. Despite being criticized coming out of college for his lack of a jumper, Carter-Williams drained four of his six three-pointers and six of his 10 field goals. He also shot a game-high eight free throws.

The Heat were playing without Dwyane Wade, who sat out the second night of a back-to-back to rest his chronically aching knees. Roger Mason Jr., who did not play in Miami's season-opening win over the Chicago Bulls, started in Wade's place and scored three points in just under 15 minutes. 

Oct 30, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Michael Carter-Williams (1) is defended by Miami Heat guard Norris Cole (30) during the fourth quarter at Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers defeated the Heat 114-110. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smit
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

With or without Wade, Philadelphia's win is nothing short of a shock. After the game Carter-Williams sounded like it was just another game (via Associated Press):"Everything was clicking tonight. If we can consistently play together, then we can be a good team."

The Sixers were playing on their home floor as 11.5-point underdogs—almost an unheard-of spread for a home team this early in the season. But with Brett Brown's squad expected to be among the top dogs in the Riggin' for Wiggins sweepstakes—Brown himself said the Sixers have six NBA players—the idea of this team defeating the defending champs seemed equally far-fetched. 

For one night, though, all the Carter-Williams criticism dissipated and the Sixers took down the mighty LeBron James. David defeated Goliath. Seems like a proper way to honor Allen Iverson, no?