The Philadelphia 76ers are still the worst team in the NBA, but at least they’ve stopped the losing, at least for one night, picking up their first win this season by beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 85-77, led by a fantastic Michael Carter-Williams and a red-hot Robert Convington coming off the bench.
It’s been almost eight months since the Sixers won their last regular season game, as they’re going through a rebuilding process which is about stripping the team to its very core and beginning from scratch, relying solely on draft picks. The city, the fan base and the owners were sold on Sam Hinkie’s idea, which has led to some embarrassing results. But the idea of being mediocre isn’t appealing to this group, so they prefer bottoming out, even for two or three years, so the end game will be contending for a title.
Someone who was probably extremely pleased to taste victory was Nerlens Noel, because the last time he was on the floor for a victory of his own team was back in college, February 9, 2013, playing for Kentucky. He missed the ending of that season with an injury, and didn’t play a single game last season because of that injury. He scored 8 points in 25 minuted for the 76ers, who were led by Carter-Williams with 20 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists, feeling especially generous in the final quarter as he was finding open players left and right while the Timberwolves defense crumbled around him.
Maybe the signs were in the air right after the opening jump ball. The game was stopped and restarted because the two teams played in the wrong direction to start with. The 76ers came out as the better team from that confusion, opening a 10-point lead that the Timberwolves eventually erased, tying the game. The problem for Minnesota, playing without Kevin Martin, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic, was their offense was completely at a halt in the final minutes, allowing the Sixers to score the final 7 points of the game.
Robert Convington scored 17 points off the bench, including 3-of-6 from beyond the arc, two of them coming in the final quarter as the Sixers were breaking loose and finding their way towards that first win. Brett Brown is now 20-80 for his first 100 games as an NBA head coach, one of only five head coaches to lose at least 80 games through the first 100 games of their NBA head coaching career. Brown is viewed as a victim of the system he’s in, but even he knows that he doesn’t have endless credit.
The Sixers were in close ones this season, including this week when they managed to let a game against the defending champions slip away from them. Now that the mental block of winning a game is removed, maybe we’ll start seeing a bit more from them in terms of basketball. There’s no pressure on them, even though that worst record of all-time is still looming. They’ve already been to the bottom a couple of times during this and the previous seasons. Things can only get better from here, at least for them, while the Timberwolves are now the team that lost to the Sixers.