Well, that’s a confounding sight at the top of the standings.
The rebuilding, supposed-to-be-really-bad Philadelphia 76ers are 2-0, having followed their stunner over the Miami Heat with a win that left the Washington Wizards‘ fans booing and their coach already questioning the players’ commitment.
Thaddeus Young scored 29 points, rookie Michael Carter-Williams started cold and finished hot, and John Wall did just the opposite Friday night as the 76ers pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 109-102 victory.
“It’s only two,” first-year 76ers coach Brett Brown said, “but we sure are happy.”
The 76ers are 2-0 for the first time since 2006-07, and they have done it by pushing the tempo and playing decent defense. They trailed by 12 points in the third quarter, but they shot 65 percent over the final 12 minutes and finished with a staggering 74 points in the paint.
Young scored 10 points in the fourth quarter. Evan Turner scored 23 points, and Spencer Hawes had 16 points and 14 rebounds. Carter-Williams finished 6 for 15 from the field after an 0-for-5 start and had 14 points and five assists.
It was an inevitable climb-down from Carter-Williams‘ stellar NBA debut when he had 22 points, 12 assists, nine steals and seven rebounds against the Heat. He overcame some early foul trouble to hit some big shots when the 76ers were making up ground on the Wizards in the third quarter.
“How does a young guy respond?” Brown said. “You just keep seeing different ways where he doesn’t get fazed by the moment.”
The Wizards were as embarrassed as they could be. They are 0-2 for the fourth consecutive year, but this season has essentially been labeled as playoffs-or-bust by owner Ted Leonsis.
Coach Randy Wittman, in the last season of his contract, answered only two questions at his postgame news conference and took five minutes to do so, using language not appropriate for live television.
“Commitment to … playing defense. That’s what it is. … The thing they haven’t learned, and I got to figure out a way,” Wittman said. “You could see it coming out of the locker room. You’ve got to respect the game, your opponent. … Everything you get is ‘No, we’re OK.’ We’re not OK. We’re 0-2. We’re not OK.”
Wall made his first seven shots and went 3 for 12 the rest of the way. He said he battled back spasms in the second half but should be fine for Sunday’s game at Miami.
Trevor Ariza added 14 rebounds for the Wizards, who played without forward Nene (strained left calf). Marcin Gortat, acquired only a week ago in a trade, had 12 points and seven rebounds in his first start for Washington.
Wall looked unstoppable in the first quarter when he reeled off 10 points in a 55-second span, beating his chest with his right fist and shouting at himself after making his second 3-pointer, but the Wizards couldn’t hold a lead. Washington led by 12 after the first quarter but failed to get a field goal for nearly 6 minutes in the second.
In the third quarter, a 12-point Wizards‘ lead was wiped out in a matter of minutes, and the teams were tied at 74 entering the fourth. Carter-Williams‘ 3-pointer with 6:28 remaining gave the 76ers their first lead of the game. They never trailed again, a team able to play with nothing to lose because everyone expects them to.
“We have a lot of confidence in each other,” Carter-Williams said. “And not by any means are we going to go out there and play like we don’t want to win. There’s a bunch of winners on this team.”