PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia 76ers continue to surprise everyone, including their coach.
Expected to be one of the NBA's worst teams before the season began, the 76ers have instead been competitive out of the gate, as they showed again in a 123-117 overtime victory over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.
Guard/forward James Anderson scored a career-high 36 points against his former team, and a dunk by center Spencer Hawes with 34.9 seconds left in the extra period put the Sixers ahead to stay.
Guard Tony Wroten -- making his first career start for Michael Carter-Williams (left arch bruise) -- had 18 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. He helped the Sixers (5-4) snap a two-game losing streak.
It was the first career triple-double for Wroten, and according to the Elias Sports Bureau, he became the first player since 1970-71 (when Elias became the NBA's official statistician) to record a triple-double in his first start.
"I feel very proud of them in regards to their competitive spirit," Brett Brown, the Sixers' first-year coach, said of his players. "We have no right to have an inherent chemistry or camaraderie. We've just sort of been introduced over the past few months. ... I think it says the group has resolve and the group has a fighting spirit that I think is just admirable on their part."
Houston guard Jeremy Lin, starting for the injured James Harden (bruised left foot), scored a season-high 34 points, hitting nine of 15 3-point attempts. He also had 12 assists. Center Dwight Howard added 23 points, 15 rebounds, six blocked shots and six assists for the Rockets (5-4), and guard/forward Chandler Parsons scored 22 points.
However, Houston frittered away a 10-point fourth-quarter lead, which left coach Kevin McHale scratching his head.
"We try to do too much instead of letting the ball do the work," he said. "Normally if we're playing well enough, the ball does a lot of the work for us and it's going from side to side. You get an eight-, nine- or 10-point lead, and it's just we don't play the same type of basketball."
Anderson forced overtime by sinking a 3-pointer with 6.6 seconds left in regulation, but the Rockets moved to a 114-113 lead with 49.1 seconds left in the extra period on Howard's hook shot.
Philadelphia guard Evan Turner, who scored 23 points, missed a layup in traffic, but Hawes was there to slam home the rebound, giving the Sixers a 115-114 advantage. After a Houston turnover, Turner made two free throws with 18.8 seconds remaining, and Anderson made two more to stretch the lead to 119-114.
Hawes had 18 points and nine rebounds. Forward Thaddeus Young added 15 points and eight boards.
Anderson, who shot 12-for-16 from the floor (including 6-for-8 from 3-point range), came in averaging 6.9 points a game. He was signed as a free agent in July after playing 29 games for the Rockets last year.
"Definitely it was a good feeling doing it against them, being that I just left there," he said.
Brown had some inkling of Anderson's capabilities, as he was an assistant in San Antonio, Anderson's first NBA stop.
"He's ready to break out," Brown said. "I think we got him at a very timely stage of his career, where he can let all those things come together -- opportunity and age and development. And tonight we saw what he can do."
Wroten, a second-year man acquired in a trade from Memphis in August, said he had never before had a triple-double at any level.
"It's a blessing," he said. "I'm just at a loss for words right now."
Philadelphia, down 92-82 with 9:13 left in regulation, pieced together a 21-11 run that included two 3-pointers apiece by Anderson and Hawes. Wroten's layup with 1:44 to play tied the game at 103-103.
Parsons made a free throw with 48.2 seconds left, then blocked Wroten's layup with 39 seconds to play. After an exchange of turnovers, Houston guard Patrick Beverley connected twice at the foul line with 18.2 seconds to play, putting the Rockets ahead 106-103.
Anderson then nailed an off-balance 3-pointer from the top of the key to knot the score again.
Parsons missed a jumper in the closing seconds, and Wroten caught iron with a half-court heave at the buzzer.
Lin scored 12 of his points in the third quarter, nine of them in the first 4:55, when the Rockets turned a 60-57 halftime deficit into a 72-64 lead. They extended that to 90-80 by the end of the period.
Howard and Lin scored eight points apiece as the Rockets moved to a 31-27 lead in the closing seconds of the first quarter, but the Sixers assembled a 16-6 run extending into the second period that vaulted them into a 43-37 lead. Anderson contributed eight points to the run (including a pair of 3-pointers), and backup point guard Darius Morris had five.
Philadelphia maintained a lead the rest of the quarter, settling for a 60-57 lead at halftime. Lin and Howard both had 16 points by that point, while Anderson paced the Sixers with 15.
NOTES: Lin's nine 3-pointers were a floor record. ... The game marked a reunion for Sam Hinkie, the Sixers' first-year general manager, as he spent the previous eight years in the Houston organization, most recently as the executive vice president. He said there is "a sobering reality" to building a franchise and "some similarities that you have to take stock of" regardless of the situation. "You have to try to figure out what your best options are to achieve your goals," he said. "And we have been very open about our goals. They are pretty lofty, set by our owners." ... F Terrence Jones made his first start of the season for Houston, and he scored 10 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. He replaced C Omer Asik, as the Rockets went with a smaller lineup against the undersized Sixers.