MINNEAPOLIS - Finally, the 76ers experienced that winning feeling again.
They avoided the worst start in NBA history by posting their first victory of the season, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves, 85-77, Wednesday night at the Target Center.
"For me personally, I think it's a big relief off my chest and the same with the rest of the guys," Sixers point guard Michael Carter-Williams said. "They said they feel more relaxed now that we got a win. I think we can build off this and get some more wins."
Carter-Williams had game highs of 20 points and nine assists for the Sixers (1-17). Robert Covington added 17 points off the bench. Forward Luc Mbah a Moute 12 points and nine rebounds in his return to Minnesota after he was traded to the Sixers in August.
The Sixers were 1 for 17 on three-pointers through three quarters before making 4 of 7 in the fourth.
Former Sixer Thaddeus Young led the Timberwolves (4-13) with 16 points. Gorgui Dieng added 15 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.
Now the Sixers won't have to answer questions about tying the New Jersey Nets for the most consecutive losses to begin a season - 18.
The Timberwolves were the perfect team to snap a streak against.
Minnesota was without three injured starters in point guard Ricky Rubio (sprained left ankle), shooting guard Kevin Martin (fractured right foot), and center Nikola Pekovic (sprained right wrist). Reserve center Ronny Turiaf (soreness in his right hip) also missed the game with an injury. The undermanned Timberwolves have lost three straight and 11 of 13 games.
The Sixers took advantage and stepped up down the stretch.
With the 76ers down by two points, K.J. McDaniels hit a three-pointer to give his squad a 76-75 lead with 1 minute, 59 seconds left. Carter-Williams' layup with 1:34 left gave the Sixers a three-point cushion.
After Dieng cut the lead to a point, Covington drained his third three-pointer of the quarter. This one gave the Sixers an 81-77 advantage. Then Nerlens Noel added a basket to make it an 83-77 game with 46.7 seconds left.
"We just went out there and played hard. We executed down the stretch, and I think that was it," Carter-Williams said. "The biggest thing for us was getting a clean shot and taking care of the ball and hoping that it goes and getting stops on the defensive end."
The Sixers had insisted that they were not fazed by the mounting losses.
"Nobody cares about that," coach Brett Brown said of the record before the game. "People always [talk about] the record. I don't even know what records are around the corner. I know because you are here, and the [national] media starts coming more in droves.
"But it's the absolute last thing that motivates me right now. There's an undercurrent where I'm aware of it now."
It was hard for the Sixers not to realize they were on the verge of making history.
ESPN had a crew at the game. It was scheduled to follow the Sixers until they got their first win. And the network has been poking fun at the franchise on a daily basis lately.
However, sacrificing wins is part of the Sixers' plan for the second straight season in the hopes of another top draft pick. Like last season, they are using this campaign for player development, evaluating talent, and developing a culture.
Yet it was nice to get a win to stop answering questions about the losing streak.
"That's why we play the game. We want to win," Brown said. "Nobody is downplaying winning. I'm not here to candy-coat the desire and the approach to winning.
"We talk win. We coach win. They practice win. We want to win."
Noel (eight points, two steals) returned after missing Monday's game with a right-hip pointer. Reserve point guard Alexy Shved (left hip flexor) and Tony Wroten (sprained right knee) missed the game.