76ers

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.

Without Joel Embiid in Toronto, Sixers 'jumped' in telling loss to Raptors

Without Joel Embiid in Toronto, Sixers 'jumped' in telling loss to Raptors

BOX SCORE

TORONTO — Ben Simmons' double-double feat aside, the Sixers have had little to enjoy about the start to the season.

They were outclassed Saturday night, 128-94, by the Toronto Raptors and have lost their first three games (see observations).

As has been their custom for back-to-back games, center Joel Embiid did not play Saturday after playing Friday in the loss to the Boston Celtics to protect his left knee.

Head coach Brett Brown said he did not expect things to go this way.

“I didn’t,” he said. “I knew the first three games were going to be difficult. I knew coming into this building after a back-to-back was going to be difficult, but you are certainly not expecting it to be that margin of a deficit. I give Toronto credit.

“We have a lot of work to do; we look forward to getting Joel (Embiid) back in this and continuing to learn how to play the group.”

After trailing by as many as 17 points in the first quarter, the Sixers whittled the lead to eight when Jerryd Bayless hit a couple of free throws with 2:22 left in the first half.

Toronto led 62-49 at the half and blitzed the Sixers to open the third quarter with Serge Ibaka scoring eight of their first 10 points of the second half. With 3:12 left in the third, the Raptors led by 29.

“They jumped us, especially at the start of the third, certainly portions of the first period but especially the start of the third and you’re just playing catch up pretty much for the rest of the game after that first almost minute, minute and a half,” Brown said.

“You’re just trying to find some type of order and purpose to end the game with that in mind.”

It was a subdued atmosphere in the dressing room after the game.

The edge surely was removed from another double-double by Simmons.

He had 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

Simmons joins Oscar Robertson as the only NBA players to average 10-plus points, 10-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in their first three career games.

“It looks great, but I’d rather have a win,” he said. “I’d rather we had three wins than three double-doubles.”

Simmons said he is looking forward to Embiid returning to the lineup Monday against the Detroit Pistons.

He said he could feel the game slipping away Saturday.

“Toward the third, coming out we just didn’t click, didn’t have it together,” Simmons said. “It’s tough without Joel (Embiid), obviously there’s chemistry and then you switch it up, so that comes into it, but we need to learn to play without him, with those back-to-backs.

“We have to stay together as a team, talk it out, get through it, communicate on the court and hold each other accountable. … We have to sit down and look at what we did wrong, that’s with every game, you have to fix your mistakes and come out ready for the next one. It’s a long season.”

It could seem even longer if there aren't signs of improvement.

“Coach Brown has talked since Day 1 of camp about our goal; to build every day, to take something positive every day and I think for tonight, we were unable to do that,” guard J.J. Redick said. “I was just saying if it’s a six-minute stretch where we are doing things well, cutting into their lead, that’s something to build on. I don’t think we did that before but that’s what I was trying to get across.

“I’m a patient person; if we were 0-45 then I’ll start to panic. There are 82 games, we have a very tough schedule to start, we’re a young team, and that’s not an excuse but the reality is the team we played tonight and the team we played in D.C. Wednesday night, they’ve been together a long time and know how to play together. We have to figure out a way to jell quicker and we have to understand and close our margin for error.”

Sixers-Raptors observations: Not much life without Joel Embiid in blowout loss

Sixers-Raptors observations: Not much life without Joel Embiid in blowout loss

BOX SCORE

TORONTO — The Air Canada Centre has become a tough place for the Sixers.

Nothing has changed with a new season.

The Raptors defeated the Sixers, 128-94, Saturday night for their 16th win in the past 17 games against the Sixers, including 10 in a row at the Air Canada Centre.

The Sixers have problems beating the Raptors at home as well as away, which pretty well takes care of all the possibilities.

Say this for the Sixers, after falling behind by 17 points during the first quarter, they had the lead down to eight in the second quarter on a pair of free throws by former Raptor Jerryd Bayless. It was 62-49 for Toronto at the half.

Then there was the second half.

The Raptors raced out to a 72-51 lead early in the third quarter, with Serge Ibaka scoring eight of their first 10 points. Kyle Lowry finished the scoring in the third quarter with a three-pointer to increase Toronto’s lead to 102-71.

• Amir Johnson got the start at center with Joel Embiid missing the second half of a back-to-back to rest his left knee. Johnson knows his way around the Air Canada Centre, having played for the Raptors for six seasons before going to the Boston Celtics for the past two seasons. He received a nice cheer during the pregame introductions and then scored the game’s first basket on a dunk.

• Jahlil Okafor took over at center 5:27 into the first quarter and quickly scored to tie the game at 13, but he was out of the game after playing 2:49 after picking up three quick fouls.

• Ben Simmons had his third consecutive double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. He also had eight assists. He already had accomplished something never done before in franchise history entering the game against the Raptors. The rookie forward recorded double-doubles in his first two career NBA games against the Washington Wizards and the Boston Celtics. He is the 11th player in NBA history to do so.

• Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan was listed as questionable for Saturday’s game because of flu symptoms. No such luck for the Sixers, he was in the starting lineup and looked quite well as he pumped in 15 points in the first quarter on 4 for 4 shooting from the field and a telling seven free throws in eight attempts. He finished with a game-high 30 points.

• As if the discrepancy in free throws has not been enough of a problem in the early going for the Sixers, Markelle Fultz missed three of his first four free-throw attempts against the Raptors. Toronto was 24 for 28 from the line in the first half and the Sixers were 12 for 18. Toronto made 31 of 37 foul shots on the game and the Sixers made 22 of 36. 

• Toronto reserve Lucas Nogueira scored on a breakaway dunk during the third quarter, which may redefine garbage time.

• For those who thought the 17 turnovers committed by the Sixers in each of their first two games were bad, what do you think of 20 turnovers Saturday night?

• Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas was restricted to 15 minutes (five points, four rebounds) because of a sprained left ankle. He had a double-double in the team’s opening game win over the Chicago Bulls.