Now that was an enjoyable game. The Sixers' flukey win over the Bucks on Friday night left me feeling largely indifferent and slightly annoyed. Tonight's loss to the Indiana Pacers was a different story. In fact, it was the perfect result for Philadelphia. The Sixers scrapped and hustled their way into a game they had no business being in, but ultimately ended up with the loss.
Plus, there were a number of positives to draw from this defeat.
First, Michael Carter-Williams. How can you not love watching this guy? Look, it's not like he's perfect. He's still a rookie with apparent flaws. But he definitely passes the "eye test". The kid can play. And he's fun! MCW finished with 29 points on 11-21 shooting, 7 steals, 3 assists (2 turnovers), and 6 rebounds. He got to the line 11 times and if he had shot better than 54% from the line he could have easily finished with over 30 on the night. Take a look at this just-for-fun stat, courtesy of Reuben Frank:
NBA players since 1985 averaging 17 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals and 7 assists per game 11 games into their career: Michael Carter-Williams.
Perhaps my favorite part MCW's game is his resiliency. You'll see him make a rookie mistake - an errant pass, a bad shot, etc. - and then respond with excellent effort to immediately correct the mistake. There was an example of this situation tonight when he made a bad pass that resulted in Pacers guard George Hill ending up with the ball. Hill tried to push the ball on the break, but MCW used his length while hustling back on defense to reach up and force a turnover to regain possession. I've also seen it when MCW will miss a shot but get his own rebound for a putback. Speaking of putbacks, how about that one handed jam from the rookie earlier in the game? Incredible.
Carter-Williams' hustle is certainly inspired by Sixers head coach Brett Brown. Yet again, is this guy awesome or what? The Sixers entered this game down three significant players: Tony Wroten (injury), Spencer Hawes (injury), and Thaddeus Young (personal reasons). Philadelphia was forced to dress only 9 players on the road against an 11-1 Pacers team. On the second night of a back to back! By all indications, this game shouldn't have been as close as it was. I wrote as much in my game preview. But obviously I underestimated the brilliant job that Brown's been doing of motivating these players to bring their hardest and play within the scheme. For everything that the Sixers lack in pure talent, they attempt to make up for in hustle. It's admirable.
MCW for Rookie of the Year. Brett Brown for Coach of the Year.
The Sixers now drop to 6-9. They don't play again until Wednesday when they take on the Orlando Magic. Familiar faces in store.