By Sean Kennedy
New York 93, Philadelphia 92
His team up 15 points with 4 minutes left in the game, Knicks coach Mike Woodson made the decision to empty his bench and have the reserves close out what would be their 8th-straight win and the 23rd-straight loss for the Sixers. What followed was nearly a sequence that would have lived on in Sixers lore for decades to come. Suddenly, the long-range shots that had eluded Philadelphia shooters all game began to find the mark, and the Knicks reserves couldn’t buy a basket when they weren’t turning the ball over. While Woodson stubbornly refused to put his starters back into the game, the Sixers whipped off a 16-1 run to pull within 2 points. Sadly, possessing the ball and a chance to win the game, a James Anderson pass intended for Thad Young in the corner was thrown out of bounds for a turnover (Anderson claimed after the game that his arm was hit on the pass). After Carmelo Anthony missed one of two free throws, Philadelphia still had one final chance to tie. However, Michael Carter-Williams’ shot from the top of the key banked off the glass before rimming in and out, serving as another heart-breaking finish for a young team playing its heart out to avoid having its name written in infamy in the record books.
Well before that exciting finish, fans were ‘treated’ to a first half so poorly shot, it would make a home-made YouTube video look like an Alfonso Cuaron masterpiece. The Sixers scored just 12 points in the second quarter, as they shot 29% from the field in the first half, including 4-22 from three, one short of their season average for attempts in an entire game. Philadelphia ended up hoisting an astounding 41 three-pointers, setting a franchise-record and tying the high in the NBA for attempts this season. All of that would be fine if they didn’t make only a lowly 10 of those shots in a shooting display as hazardous as that of the GM executives who maimed Ken Cosgrove on Mad Men.
Two things kept the Sixers hanging around despite their shooting woes. First, the Knicks were nearly as ice-cold from the floor, shooting just 32% from the field themselves in the first half, including 1-16 from three. New York missed its first 12 long-range attempts until Carmelo Anthony finally hit one with 5 minutes remaining in the second quarter. The other reason was the remarkable play of Michael Carter-Williams. The rookie hit 10-21 shots, including a huge three in the final minute of the game, for a team-high 22 points. He also tied a career-high with 13 rebounds and perhaps most importantly, dished out 9 assists against just 2 turnovers. This game was the most controlled the rookie has looked in a while, not forcing wild shots in the paint or making the ill-advised passes that have haunted him lately. Even if this was the team’s last best chance at avoiding the wrong side of history, it won’t matter if things continue to progress like we saw tonight for the franchise’s point guard of the future.
- I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the work on the boards by big man Henry Sims. Sims grabbed 4 offensive rebounds in the first quarter alone, and finished with 8 o-boards and a career-high 13 in total, to go along with 16 points. Despite some mistakes you might expect from any young player receiving the first significant playing time of his career, Sims continues to show off a nice shooting touch and some good passing instincts, in addition to the tenacity on the boards and willingness to stand strong on the defensive end that we’ve come to expect from him. Of all the young big men the Sixers have circled through this season, Sims stands out the most as a potential keeper.
- Tony Wroten left the game in the second half with a sprained right ankle, stepping on Iman Shumpert’s foot while driving to the hoop. Wroten has already been ruled out for the team’s upcoming 3-game road trip in Chicago, San Antonio, and Houston, and while it was already unlikely the Sixers would earn a win against that tough stretch of opponents, the loss of Wroten will only serve to make matters worse. The now-23-game losing streak seems almost certain to grow to tie the NBA-record 26-game mark.
Like the Sixers, Milwaukee has been competing with teams lately, losing a close game in Golden State Thursday night. However, also similar to Philadelphia, the Bucks’ losing streak continues to grow and the Sixers remain 2 games ahead despite a ‘Lost 23’ in the standings. Even though Philadelphia has remained stagnant on both the worst overall record and breaking the losing streak fronts, fans can take heart in the outstanding performance put forth Friday night by Michael Carter-Williams. 5/5 tanks.