DEERFIELD — Perhaps the shock of the very young NBA regular season was Philadelphia’s Wednesday-night upset of the defending-champion Heat.
Yes, it was the 76ers’ home opener — preceded by franchise legend Allen Iverson's retirement, which likely added to the emotion — but for the team projected by most observers to be the league’s worst this season to jump out to a 19-0 run and defeat Miami, coming off a commanding season-opening Tuesday-evening win over the Bulls, was almost unfathomable.
“They have a great, young team. The way they’ve been playing an up-tempo game, we’ve got to make sure we get back in transition, really stop their athletic wings,” said Bulls point guard Derrick Rose, who will encounter high school rival Evan Turner, a Chicago native and Sixers swingman. “It’s hard playing a team like that because anyone can get the rebound and bust out. We’ve just really got to get used to it and really communicate on the defensive end.”
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau added: “They’re very fast. They’re quick. They get the ball up the floor quickly. Michael Carter-Williams has great size and quickness and vision, but their speed makes them unique. Turner is a guy who can rebound and bust out with it. Thaddeus Young can out-quick people at the four. Spencer Hawes is highly skilled. They’re tough.”
Turner led Philadelphia in scoring vs. Miami, but the star of the show was rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who had 22 points, 12 assists and nine steals in the victory, opening up eyes throughout the league, especially after the Sixers were criticized for trading All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday on draft day in June, presumably in an effort to tank for the No. 1 overall selection in the 2014 NBA Draft.
The aforementioned Turner, Young and Hawes, a center, are three of the few remaining pieces of Philadelphia’s team that beat the Bulls in the first round of the 2012 NBA playoffs after Rose suffered a torn left ACL in the opening game of the series.