30 games into the 2013-14 season, Philadelphia 76ers rookie Michael Carter-Williams is already making his early case for winning the Rookie of the Year award. Carter-Williams had 13 points, five rebounds and five assists in a 111-104 Sixers victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center, but also showed his defensive-mindedness with a game-high four steals.
“I just tried to get in the passing lanes, help my teammates out and try to get deflections which lead to steals,” said Carter-Williams.
The 11th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft out of Syracuse University entered the Sunday night matchup averaging 18.1 points, 7.7 assists, 5.5 rebounds and a league-leading three steals per game. That final stat shows Carter-Williams’ penchant for playing defense, which has helped catapult Philadelphia into the top 10 in the NBA for steals per game and points off turnovers—one of their bright spots in a rebuilding season that’s only netted nine wins thus far.
However, against the Lakers, the Sixers as a whole played strong defense that helped cause 20 turnovers for their opponent while only committing 10 turnovers themselves.
“I thought we did a great job of getting back on defense, stopping the ball in transition and talking,” said Carter-Williams.
The rookie knows that playing defense on one end of the floor can beget offense on the other end. A steal by Carter-Williams at the 6:02 mark of the second quarter set up a quick, easy bucket on the other end for Thaddeus Young.
Carter-Williams only had two points and one assist heading into halftime, but he already tied his season average in steals with three as the game was deadlocked at 52 apiece. The Sixers held a nine-point advantage at the end of the third quarter, but the Lakers took a 95-94 lead in the fourth quarter with 7:07 remaining in the game.
Carter-Williams asserted himself more offensively in the second half with 11 points as the Sixers would retake the lead at the 4:25 mark and never looked back. Carter-Williams displayed preternatural poise for a rookie as he sank two crucial free throws that put Philadelphia ahead 109-104 with 13.2 seconds left in the game.
A 6-foot-6, Carter-Williams’ length and lateral quickness present problems for opposing point guards. Lakers starting point guard Jordan Farmar was held to eight points on just 3-of-11 shooting. Carter-Williams’ size also allows him to keep wing players in check as he did with Lakers guard Nick Young at times, who scored a game-high 26 points, but was only 6-of-21 from the field.
The Sixers earned a rare win on the road and a defensive effort like the one they displayed against the Lakers will only help them in the win-loss column going forward.
“We made an effort in picking up our defense and ball movement and it helped out a lot,” said Sixers guard Evan Turner.