The Philadelphia 76ers may very well finish the season with the most losses in NBA history, but they avoided the record book on this night.
An 85-77 road win over the Minnesota Timberwolves guaranteed the Sixers would avoid a record-tying 0-18 start. Philly residents, consult local listings for parade routes and streamer purchases.
Make no mistake, this contest was a horror show from the start, with the opening seconds ranking among the most bizarre. Fourteen seconds after tipoff, the officials realized something strange, per Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press:
Instead of just switching ends, both teams lined up to re-jump, effectively eliminating those 14 seconds from basketball existence. I'm guessing everyone but the Sixers—the fans who rained boos from the rafters, the Wolves themselves and anyone masochistic enough to watch from home—wish the other 47 minutes and 46 ticks could be wiped from memory as well.
Philadelphia built a 23-13 first-quarter lead, reaching new territory in the process, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Both teams coughed the rock up routinely, missed easy buckets and generally played some of the worst ball imaginable. The numbers at halftime were hard to believe.
|Sixers at Timberwolves, First Half|
Things picked up from there, with Philly's Michael Carter-Williams leading the way with a near triple-double. He finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in 43 minutes, topping Philadelphia in all four categories.
Minnesota got 15 points and 16 rebounds from Gorgui Dieng, but only three other Timberwolves reached double figures on the night. Former 76ers forward Thaddeus Young led the team with 16 points.
The Wolves, as they've been for a while, were without three starters: Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin. But don't expect the Sixers to acknowledge any asterisks attached to their first win of the season. For a team whose ownership is so clearly devoted to losing, it was clear that the players reveled in the victory.
Tony Wroten, who wasn't healthy enough to play (knee), was psyched:
Joel Embiid celebrated the win on social media by doing the same thing he always does—hit on Rihanna:
Even past Sixers greats chimed in, happy for the oh-so-modest achievement:
In the end, neither team shot over 40 percent from the field, and the game featured 36 turnovers against 32 assists.
But the 76ers won, and it's entirely possible they won't do that again for another 18 games...or longer. Who knows, really?
For now, it's probably best to just congratulate Philly on its narrow avoidance of ignominious history and wish it well as it plays out the remaining 64-game string.
Around the Association
The Charlotte Hornets dropped their 10th straight game, falling 102-95 to a Chicago Bulls team one day removed from a double-overtime grinder against the Dallas Mavericks.
Though the streak of futility continued for the league's most disappointing squad, there were a few highlights and bright spots worth noting. Lance Stephenson played what might have been his best game as a Hornet, tallying a season-high 20 points, along with eight rebounds and four assists. His early activity provided a boost—unfortunately one that wouldn't linger into the game's late stages.
Kemba Walker rudely crossed up Nikola Mirotic (who had 11 points and 12 rebounds off the bench), drawing gasps from the crowd and an understated giggle from Hornets owner and reasonably well-known former player Michael Jordan.
When Jordan next takes Walker aside, he'll likely explain the crossover-enhancing merits of the push-off.
An encouraging sign for the Bulls: Derrick Rose held up, and their gaudy road record got even better, as pointed out by K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:
Finally, there's some good news for the reeling Hornets. The 4-15 New York Knicks are up next.
Mike Fratello's Czar Status Is Safe
The Brooklyn Nets logged their first win against a team above .500 on Wednesday, knocking off the visiting San Antonio Spurs, 95-93. Brooklyn put forth the best collective effort of its season, capitalized on an uncharacteristically casual Spurs squad and were lucky to get a calamitous late foul from Danny Green that all but iced the game.
Green was not so lucky, as all you lip-readers out there will see in this clip of an apoplectic Gregg Popovich screaming about his late-game blunder. Earmuffs!
In other basketball-related business, Mirza Teletovic threw up 16 points and 15 boards (and a sweet poster jam), while Brook Lopez contributed 16 points and 15 boards. The thoroughly chastised Green led San Antonio with 20.
With that out of the way, we move on to more important matters: Mike Fratello let Nets play-by-play man Ian Eagle use his precious telestrator during the broadcast—with predictable results:
It's safe to say the Czar's position is safe.
Monta Ellis Have It All...Game-Winners Included
With his team playing without Dirk Nowitzki a day after a double-overtime win against the Chicago Bulls, Tyson Chandler boosted the Dallas Mavericks in their 107-105 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks with 18 points and 20 rebounds. And with victory in sight, Monta Ellis proved that having it all includes icy, back-breaking buzzer-beaters:
The play caught heat around the league for what was perhaps an extra step or two, but let's not get caught up in petty details, or, you know, rules.
The Bucks didn't get enough from Ellis when he was in Milwaukee. It's safe to say they've had their fill now. Chandler Parsons thinks so:
Elfrid Payton Has Some Mechanical Issues
Someday, Elfrid Payton is going to be a darn good player in the NBA. He's smart, defends and has the court sense of a 10-year veteran. But he can't shoot—even when nobody's guarding him. Coming into the Orlando Magic's 114-86 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, he was shooting just 49 percent from the foul line.
That figure is headed south, folks:
That's right; two consecutive air balls from a point guard. Not ideal.
The Lakers Hit a Wall
Kobe Bryant came out gunning, got no help from his teammates (Jeremy Lin was benched in the fourth quarter after missing all 10 of his shots to that point) and the Los Angeles Lakers completely ran out of steam against John Wall and the Washington Wizards, falling 111-95.
The closing sequence summed up the proceedings nicely. Down six with 1:23 remaining, Bryant, isolated (because obviously) on the wing, dribbled between his legs thrice and bricked a contested three. As all five Lakers stood around, the Wizards broke out, and Wall hit Marcin Gortat for a transition dunk.
Bryant turned the ball over on the next possession, leading to yet another breakaway jam—this time for Rasual Butler. A third Kobe giveaway resulted in—you guessed it—a third Wizards fast-break jam with 27 seconds left.
Wall's four-point play (he was fouled by Bryant) and subsequent shimmy capped off a brilliant 17-point, 15-assist night. L.A. hit a wall in this one, and then Wall hit back.
Lowry Making His Case
If the Toronto Raptors—who are now 15-4 after dispatching the Utah Jazz 123-104—maintain their hold on the East and Kyle Lowry keeps getting loose like he did on Wednesday, we may have to start seriously considering him as an MVP candidate.
He dropped 39 points on 22 shots, pumping up his scoring average to 20.6 points per game to go along with 6.8 assists and 4.9 rebounds. With DeMar DeRozan sidelined because of a torn tendon in his groin, we should expect to see plenty more big nights from the King in the North. SB Nation's Jason Patt noted Lowry's per-game points average over three games "without DeRozan":
This is not a drill.
Rockets Cruise On
Dwight Howard, Patrick Beverley and Terrence Jones' absences should have resulted in a Houston Rockets loss against the fearsome Memphis Grizzlies.
Houston improved to 5-2 since Howard has been out with a strained right knee behind 21 points from James Harden and five other Rockets in double figures. The 105-96 road loss dropped the Grizzlies out of the West's top spot and put the rest of the conference on notice: These Rockets are deeper than anyone thought, as highlighted in coach Kevin McHale's comments, per the Rockets:
I guess the final takeaway is something we already suspected: Everybody in the West is dangerous—healthy or not.