Tony Wroten slams for two of his 22 points.
By Sam Bush
What a difference a year makes.
In 2013-14, the Sixers beat the defending NBA champion Miami Heat at a raucous Wells Fargo Center, and then ran off three wins in a row.
Wednesday night, this season’s Sixers opened the season with a resounding thud, losing 103-91 in Indiana to a Pacers team that has decimated by injuries and player movement.
The Sixers have undergone a drastic transformation in the past year, and with Michael Carter-Williams unavailable to start the season because of an injured right shoulder, not a single player who started against the Pacers did so the season prior against Miami.
Likewise, only six of the 15 players currently on the Sixers’ roster were with team to start last season.
One year ago, Nerlens Noel watched Philly’s season opener from the end of the team’s bench, wearing a freshly fitted Italian suit as he watched his teammate and childhood friend, Carter-Williams, flirt with a quadruple-double in his debut game.
In 35 minutes of action, the 20-year-old Noel scored six points to go along with game-highs in rebounds (10) and blocks (3). Noel showed some rust on the offensive end, going 2-of-11 from the field and 2-of-6 from the free-throw line, but he made his presence felt in other facets of the game and was one of only three Sixers with a positive plus-minus rating. Noel drew a team-high five personal fouls and finished second to Tony Wroten in defensive rating at 96.6.
In MCW’s absence, coach Brett Brown started third-year combo guard Wroten, and the often-frenetic playmaker led all scorers with 22 points against the Pacers, also dishing out a game-high seven assists and notching eight rebounds and three steals. Perhaps most impressive, though, was the fact that Wroten, who had a near 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio last season, committed just one against the Pacers.
Brown often talks about the importance of stopping the fast break and of protecting the paint. On Wednesday, the Sixers held a 67-45 advantage in those two categories. Philly turned the ball over just 11 times against Indiana, with primary ballhandlers Wroten and Alexey Shved combining for just one giveaway to 12 total assists.