MINNEAPOLIS — The Philadelphia 76ers avoided tying the record for the worst start to a season in NBA history, ending their 0-17 skid with an 85-77 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
Michael Carter-Williams had 20 points, nine rebounds and nine assists and Robert Covington added 17 points to keep Philadelphia from tying the 0-18 start by the New Jersey Nets in 2009-10.
The game got off to an awkward start when 16 seconds into the first quarter, referees realized that the two teams were going in the wrong direction. A foul on the Timberwolves had to be wiped away and the game restarted with a new jump ball, prompting heads to be scratched all over the arena.
By the end, the Sixers wound up going the right away, although it wasn’t easy.
The Sixers shot just 39 percent against the worst defense in the league and turned the ball over 19 times. They scored only nine points in the second quarter, but in the end there were smiles and hugs for the first time this season.
Gorgui Dieng had 15 points and 16 rebounds for the Timberwolves. But Minnesota shot just 35.7 percent and turned the ball over 19 times to lose for the 11th time in 13 games.
The Sixers have been competitive in recent losses to Western Conference heavyweights San Antonio, Dallas and Portland and entered this game with real hope that the streak would come to an end, even though they were missing leading scorer Tony Wroten for the fourth straight game.
The Timberwolves have been playing without injured starters Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic, were on their fourth game in six nights and their first back from a West Coast road trip.
The teams combined for 66 points, 55 missed shots and 25 turnovers in the first two quarters. The Sixers led by 10 points after the first quarter — their first double-digit first quarter lead of the season — and 12 in the second quarter before the Wolves got going.
They closed the period on a 13-1 run to take a 34-32 lead into the break, but both teams spent most of the night clanking shots, fumbling passes and squandering opportunities.
Carter-Williams hit 9 of 20 shots and Covington, a call-up from the D-League, hit two big 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to give the Sixers a 69-64 lead.
Mo Williams capped an 11-2 spurt with a 3-pointer that gave the Wolves a 75-73 lead with 2:18 to play, but K.J. McDaniels, who air-balled his first two 3-pointers of the night, came right back with a 3 of his own to take the lead back for Philly and Covington’s third 3 of the quarter with 1:15 left sealed it.
As much as coach Brett Brown tried to downplay the streak and the prospects of tying the record, he did allow himself to envision how he would celebrate a win when he spoke at the morning shootaround.
“Cart wheels, somersaults, great dinner with my family,” Brown said. “Hug my players. Really, salute the fans.”
76ers: Brown improved to 20-80 in his first 100 games as coach, narrowly avoiding becoming just the fifth coach in NBA history to win fewer than 20 in his first 100. … The Sixers missed their first 12 3-pointers. … McDaniels finished with 12 points and nine rebounds.
Timberwolves: Andrew Wiggins was chosen Western Conference rookie of the month for November. He had 11 points and five rebounds. … The Wolves held the Sixers to nine points in the second quarter, the second-lowest number in franchise history. … The Wolves honored Harold Gifford during the second quarter. Gifford was the co-pilot on a flight in 1960 carrying the Minneapolis Lakers that had to make an emergency landing in a cornfield in Iowa. Gifford is credited with helping make a safe landing and saving the lives of everyone on board.
76ers: Host Oklahoma City on Friday.
Timberwolves: Host Houston on Friday.