THE ORLANDO MAGIC and Philadelphia 76ers organizations are pretty much in the same boat (commence with "sinking" jokes). Both aren't about the now, but instead are valuing the young players they have and keeping all eyes focused on the future.
Most of that focus, for both clubs, goes directly to their talented rookie guards - Orlando's Victor Oladipo and the Sixers' Michael Carter-Williams. You got the feeling in July when, only days after being drafted, the two squared off in the Orlando Pro Summer League that it was the beginning of a long rivalry. The two had met just a couple of months earlier when MCW's Syracuse squad defeated Oladipo's Indiana team in the East Regional semifinal of the NCAA Tournament, and the competitiveness seemed to carry over to that pretty meaningless summer game.
It continued last night at the Wells Fargo Center as each played a huge role for his team. Their individual battle was pretty much of an exciting stalemate, as both posted their first triple-double in the NBA, Carter-Williams going for 27 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists and Oladipo collecting 26, 10 and 10. But Carter-Williams and his teammates came out with a wild 126-125, double-overtime win. It was the first time in NBA history two rookies had triple-doubles in a game.
For Carter-Williams, it was a career high in rebounds. Oladipo set a career mark in points. It was a game to remember in many ways, though one to forget in most. But for all the questionable officials' calls and borderline stupid play at times, the rookies overshadowed all of it.
"They are two really good, young players," Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "Look at the minutes that Oladipo logged [51:35, after playing Monday] and look at the minutes that Michael logged [46:32] and then look across and see the stats next to those minutes. You know, Michael's got a swollen knee that's a legitimate injury, stuff that he did a hell of a job playing through that. Those are two young, talented players, competitive, going at each other.
"When you see them swarm, Michael when he drives and then Oladipo has that great lateral quickness, and both are excellent at anticipating. They are two long, athletic point guards going head-to-head in a pretty exciting game."
All that was missing was the "Anything you can do, I can do better" song to break out.
Both players had help from teammates in the stellar play department as Thaddeus Young contributed 25 points and 12 rebounds, Evan Turner got 24 points before fouling out early in the second overtime on a questionable offensive call, and James Anderson came off the bench for 19 points. Spencer Hawes added 17 and Hollis Thompson 10 for the Sixers, now 7-12.
For Orlando, Arron Afflalo had a career-high 43 and Glen Davis also snared a career high with 33 to lead the shorthanded Magic (6-12), which was without starters Jameer Nelson (sprained foot) and Nikola Vucevic (sprained ankle).
The Sixers got off to another rocky start, allowing the Magic to make 11 of its 16 shots in the first quarter while scoring 34 points. Sunday in Detroit, the Pistons made 15 of their first 20 shots against the Sixers en route to 40 points in the first. They also had some head-scratching play that lended to the game going as long as it did.
Leading, 118-115, with 12.1 seconds left in the first overtime, Turner fouled Afflalo on a three-point attempt, giving the hot shooter a chance to tie the game, which he did. Then in the second overtime, with 10.2 seconds to go and leading by three, Anderson missed two foul shots that gave the Magic yet another chance. This time, however, Orlando didn't convert, and the Sixers finally came away with the win, thanks to some clutch running layups by Young in the overtimes.
"He was fantastic," Brown said. "We're going to remember him catching and going on two big layups in critical moments of the game. We're going to remember him stepping out and making some threes. But what I remember is him engaged in timeouts making sure all the young guys were on point with what our pick-and-roll defense is and how we're going to guard the post."
There was a lot to remember about this game, especially from the two young guards. And also a lot to forget.
It was announced before the game that Michael Carter-Williams was named the Eastern Conference rookie of the month for October. He also was named the rookie player of the week in the first week of the season. The last Sixer to receive the monthly award was Allen Iverson in 1997.