ORLANDO - As coach Brett Brown joked to a reporter after last night's game in Orlando, "You even love your wife a little more after a win, huh?"
His 76ers picked up their third win of the season with a 96-88 decision over the Magic. And while the victory might heighten romantic feelings, it also is a mask to some things that may have not been so pleasant had this turned into another loss.
After a failed possession in the second quarter, Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams made their way to the bench while in a screaming match with each other. It continued on the bench with Noel seated and MCW standing over him, both shouting at each other until assistant Chad Iske calmly knelt in front of Noel to give instruction.
Chalk that up to heat of the battle and the frustration of this season.
Then in the second quarter, a family member of rookie K.J. McDaniels, seated near the Sixers' bench, started chanting, "We want K.J. We want K.J." Players on the bench laughed, McDaniels at one point looking over and mouthing for her to stop. Then as the players walked to the locker room at halftime, she said to MCW in particular and to the team as a whole, "Pass the ball. Pass the ball."
Not sure what to chalk that up to, but both incidents were forgotten and even laughed about in the locker room following the team's third win in 26 games.
"It's always great to win, but when you don't win that much it's even better," said Carter-Williams, who finished with a team-high 21 points to go with six assists. "Whatever it takes to get us going. Whatever needs to be said needs to be said. I think it definitely turned into a positive and I think we bounced back from it.
"Honestly, that's something that's between me, Nerlens and the rest of the guys in the locker room. We got into it a little bit, as teammates do. I grew up with him. We've gotten into it before. It wasn't the first time and it's not anything negative. We got into it and it's over with. It's not like we're little kids and not passing the ball. It's over and we move on. I've known him for a while."
The small spat seemed to even spur the play of both as Noel finished a very active night with 13 points and 12 rebounds. He was instrumental in helping the team recover from an 11-point deficit in the third by closing it out with a 22-7 run, giving the Sixers a four-point lead entering the final period.
They closed it out with good defense, timely shooting and a spirit that their coach hadn't seen in the past two games.
"We responded to them going on that run to start the third period," Brown said. "We called a timeout, down 11 points, and jumped back in the game quick and really didn't let it go. I thought the way that we handled it and managed that - sharing the ball and playing together - is the most pleasing thing. That was a group effort by nine guys.
"We hadn't played well, and I base it totally on spirit. We didn't have any spirit the last two games. We played with energy, we played with passion. It's fantastic for that group that it translated into a win. You've got the performances of Jerami Grant, who came in and had some great defensive plays. Nerlens and Henry [Sims] with 12 rebounds and Robert [Covington] with 10. I thought the backcourt of Michael and Tony [Wroten] played well. The group rallied around the environment of nine guys and found a way to win."
It was down to nine as Hollis Thompson (illness) and Furkan Aldemir (plantar fasciitis) were out. But overcome they did, as the Sixers got 20 of their 25 assists in that impressive second half.
Sims had 12 points to match his rebounding total, while Covington added 11 points and Wroten 10 and seven assists.
Former Sixer Nikola Vucevic totaled 19 points and 17 rebounds, while Victor Oladipo led the Magic (10-20) with 23 points.
The mood was certainly brighter in the locker room following the win, as the team was rewarded with a day off today. And Brett Brown's wife can be happy knowing that her husband loves her a little bit more today.