ORLANDO - More than wins, individual awards or his own accomplishments, the unquestioned priority for coach Brett Brown is keeping his young team together during this painful rebuilding process that management has put in place.
So it was kind of ironic that when the Sixers grabbed their third victory in 26 games Sunday in Orlando, it was a division within the group that propelled the team to its 96-88 win.
Coming off the court in the second quarter after another failed offensive possession, Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams screamed at each other as they made their way to the bench during a timeout, and continued to jaw expletives as Noel sat and MCW stood over him. Both laughed it off after the game, but their coach had another take.
"I love it," Brown said. "I think it's the most real environment when you get two Boston guys - they grew up with each other - they got a situation, they're going to talk it through. Think how many basketball games in AAU that they played with each other. They were trying to figure it out, and it's just teammates talking to teammates and it's just real. It ended up proving to be a very healthy, true conversation.
"I let it go and glad to do it. It's different. It's not like they just met each other and have issues. It's healthy issues, it's real and that's what families go through. It ain't always pretty. They talked it through and off they go."
It took a little while for the goodness of the spat to come to fruition, as the Sixers found themselves down by 11 points midway through the third quarter. But they closed the quarter by scoring 22 of the final 29 points, upped the lead to 14 in the fourth quarter and played with a cohesiveness that is present about as much the win total would dictate.
"We had a miscommunication, like any competitive players would," Noel said. "We talked it out and we even played better and helped the team in a positive way. We reacted and continued to even play harder. We fixed it and started to improve our play. We were both in the fault."
But it was the play of both that ignited the victory. MCW scored 11 of his team-high 21 points in a second half in which the Sixers won 59-46. More important, he dealt five of his six assists in the final 24 minutes, as the team had 15 assists on 21 baskets in the second half, compared with five on 14 makes in the first half. Noel snared five rebounds in the second half, helping the team to get a 30-20 advantage there.
A reporter asked Brett Brown whether it was easier for his team to play on the road, as the Sixers have won all three games this season away from the Wells Fargo Center. Brown responded, "Easy doesn't come into one thing I think about in any of our games."
He then added: "It's just coincidence. We don't find it difficult at home. Maybe we press a little bit too hard at home. We had a game we could have closed out when we were up 18 in the fourth period [against Memphis]. I don't know."
The team had off yesterday. The Sixers had a morning breakfast together in Orlando before flying to Miami . . . Furkan Aldemir appears doubtful to play tonight, as he battles plantar fasciitis in his right foot. Hollis Thompson, battling an upper-respiratory infection, will be a game-time decision . . . All of the nine players available on Sunday played at least 15 minutes, and all scored five or more points.