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76ers: Talented But Young And Inexperienced

Philadelphia 76ers fans must remember this: The team has potential but is young and inexperienced.

The Sixers’ opener, a 112-95 setback to the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night at TD Garden, proved they have a talented Twin Tower tandem in Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel and a lot of improving to do as a team.

Okafor showed he’s an early front-runner to win rookie of the year.

The 6-foot-11, 268-pounder made his first five shots to score 10 of the Sixers’ first 17 points. However, he cooled off once the Celtics decided to guard him with the 290-pound Jared Sullinger or double-team him. The former Duke standout missed four of his next five shots before turning it back on in the fourth quarter.

Bottom of Form

He finished with 26 points on 10-for-16 shooting, with seven rebounds and two blocks in 38 minutes. However, Okafor was also careless with the ball at times, committing eight of the Sixers’ 24 turnovers.

But Sixers coach Brett Brown said he learned that the third overall pick has capabilities beyond what he thought.

Brown considered Okafor to be a low-post horse. He now realizes Okafor can shoot 17-footers, put it on the floor and make moves facing up and is a comfortable passer.

“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised,” said Okafor, who was asked if he felt the same way as Brown. “I credit myself on being a back-to-the-basket big. That’s what everybody knows me as.

“I’ve always said there’s other things I can do. Coach Brown is just testing it out, putting me in different situation, seeing if it’s effective.”

Noel, a 6-11, 223-pound power forward, finished with 14 points, a game-high 12 rebounds, two blocks and three turnovers.

“I leave encouraged watching Jahlil play and Nerlens play,” Brown said. “There were some good things that came out of it.”

Point guard Isaiah Canaan added 18 points and had three turnovers. Boston was paced by reserve guard Isaiah Thomas’ game-high 27 points.

The Sixers were outscored, 26-7, in fastbreak points.

They produced only 14 points in the second quarter. A lot of that had to do with being outscored, 21-2, from the 2-minute, 31-second point of the first quarter until the 5:40-mark of the half. The Sixers missed three of four shots and had five turnovers during the stretch.

“I knew that our offense was going to be poor because we hadn’t played together,” Brown said. “So I ended up turning into a ‘Let’s just post our bigs and go vanilla.’ ”

Guard Nik Stauskas (stress reaction, right leg) was cleared to play before the game. However, the shooting guard never stepped on the court during the game because of pregame back spasms.

This game was a homecoming for Brown and Noel.

Noel grew up in Everett, Mass., which is less than four miles from the arena. He had 20 family members and friends at the game.

Brown, a Maine native who played at Boston University, kept up a pregame tradition he began during his days as a longtime assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs. He walked six miles round-trip from the team hotel across from Boston Common’s to T Anthony’s Pizzeria near BU’s campus.

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