NBA rookie debuts can’t go any better than the performance put on by Michael Carter-Williams, leading the Philadelphia 76ers to a 114-110 win over the Miami Heat, putting on a statistical masterpiece while falling short of becoming only the second rookie in league history to finish with a triple double while playing in his first game.
The former Syracuse star showcased his incredible athleticism and versatility by putting up 22 points, 7 rebounds, 12 assists and 9 steals, falling just short of Big O’s remarkable achievement. However, his nine steals are a new record for a career debut, while his 12 assists are second on the all-time list behind Ernie DiGregorio of the Buffalo Braves with 14. He is also the 3rd player in NBA history with the 22-7-12-9 stat line, following Johnny Moore (1985) and Rickey Green (1982).
However, Carter-Williams was the symptom, not the disease for the Miami Heat, looking quite tired and slow on back-to-back nights, which also meant Dwyane Wade took a night off to give his aching knees a bit more rest. The Heat were down by 19 at the end of the first quarter, and bad openings seem to be the indicator of how bad the game will end for Miami: They have never overcome a deficit larger than 12 points at the end of the 1st quarter in the “Big 3” era. The 19 points deficit is the second largest since James and Bosh joined Wade in South Beach.
However, in between, there were a lot of impressive moments for Miami, outscoring Philadelphia 80-52 in quarters two and three. However, scoring only 30 points to open and close the game was a clear indication of still being behind schedule when it comes to their fitness, and how a youthful team might be able to run the Heat off the floor, especially when one of their best players isn’t dressing up for the night.
It was a game of runs, as the Sixers began on a 19-0 surge. The closed the game on a 13-1 run. Ray Allen hit 4 3-pointers in the last 1:43 of the third quarter. Defense, which was such a big part of the Heat’s win over the Chicago Bulls, was simply non existent. Spencer Hawes enjoyed a lot of freedom in the paint, as the Heat couldn’t stop the slashing Sixers. Hawes scored 24 points, grabbing 9 rebounds, while Evan Turner answered a lot of critics who expect him to be traded this season by scoring 26 points. The Sixers didn’t get much from their bench, but it was enough to show how vulnerable Miami might be this season.
More important? The Sixers might not be the doormat everyone expects them to be. No tanking, at least not on the first night of the season against the NBA champions, with a lot of players who might not be so highly regarded, but are entering a season with quite a lot to prove. For the Miami Heat, this is a loss they don’t mind taking, knowing that the big picture is much more important.
If he needs to take the second game of the season, the 30th game, 50th game, 80th game, that’s the way it is.