By Joseph Santoliquito

MINNEAPOLIS, MN (CBS) — It was an NBA game played Wednesday night in reverse world. The winless 76ers and Minnesota Timberwolves didn’t play so much a basketball game, and nothing obviously close to what a pair of real NBA teams could do.

Instead, they engaged in a game of one-downsmanship: Which team could miss more? Which team could throw the ball away more? Which team was more comical to watch than the other? Which team was shooting at which basket? The referees realized the teams were going in the wrong direction 16 seconds after the opening tap-off. They pushed the restart button.

If only it were that simple for the Sixers.

The problem, however, was the Sixers were lugging some infamous relevance, a 0-17 start, while the hapless Timberwolves were trying not to be The Ones to lose to the NBA’s worst team.

It was ugly, but it ended the Sixers’ season-opening bleeding, with an 85-77 victory over the Wolves at the Target Center.

Michael Carter-Williams scored a game-high 20, Robert Covington added 17, including a crucial three-pointer with 1:15 left to play, and Nerlens Noel finished with 8 points and three rebounds, but he also came up with a clutch basket inside of a minute.

“We played an unbelievable game,” Carter-Williams said. “We stuck together as a team and we work hard every single day in practice. We try to show it in the game. A lot of times our talent and hard work don’t show on the floor. We just came out here and played hard and played together. I thought we came out in the second half and played great.”

The Sixers victory left them one loss shy of tying the all-time lowest start in NBA history, still owned by the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets, which began 0-18

The 0-17 start by the 76ers does tie the 1988-89 Miami Heat, which started 0-17 and the 1999 Los Angeles Clippers, which also started 0-17 in the labor-dispute shortened 1999 season.

After seeing Minnesota play, maybe the question has to be asked if the Sixers are indeed the worst team in the NBA, even after being 1-17?

With 4:50 left to play, the Sixers actually led, 73-68, on a Henry Sims’ 18-foot jumper. Then Mo Williams nailed a trey to give the Wolves a 75-73 lead with 2:16 to play, answered by a Sixers’ three-pointer from rookie K.J. McDaniels at 1:59 gave the Sixers back the lead, 76-75.

The Sixers missed their first 12 shots from three-point range. So it was unique that a three-pointer was the critical shot. The Sixers shot 32of 82, for 39-percent. The woeful Wolves were worse, hitting just 30 of 84 for 35.7-percent. Both teams turned the ball over 18 times—the Sixers had 14 turnovers by halftime.

No, it wasn’t pretty.

But now that the streak is over, the national talkingheads skulking away, and the curiosity seekers craning their necks at the passing train wreck gone, will the Sixers lose what little bearing they had?

Possibly that one digit in the left column under ‘W’ may have just deflated some of the morbid attention that the winless Sixers were getting.

 

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