By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) March 25, 2018
Philadelphia 120, Minnesota 108 – Box Score
At this point, the Sixers are basically Achilles on the battlefield, screaming “Is there no one else?” Riding a 5-game winning streak, Philadelphia entered play Saturday night having made a habit of beating up on teams tanking their way to the lottery, even giving their starters a rest for the entire fourth quarter the last couple games. Surely a Minnesota team fighting to maintain its place in the war zone Western Conference playoff picture would pose more of a challenge? Not so much.
Instead, the Sixers treated the Wolves like every other also-ran they’ve torched lately. Ben Simmons repeatedly carved up a Minnesota defense that showed only a passing interest in staying with cutters or Sixers coming off screens. The stone cold Rookie of the Year (per Brett Brown) was denied a triple-double last game because he sat out the fourth quarter, so this time, he made sure to get his 10th triple-double in the third quarter. Simmons finished the game with 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 13 assists, making a handful of incredible passes, including this half-court bounce pass to Dario Saric that justifiably had people invoking Magic Johnson.
This Ben Simmons pass is Magic-like 👀 pic.twitter.com/NKvv8Mvr0Z
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 24, 2018
Meanwhile, Joel Embiid comfortably won the battle of the unicorn big men, recording 18 points and 3 blocks, all while holding Karl-Anthony Towns to 3-15 shooting from the field. Embiid’s denial of Towns at the rim here perfectly encapsulated the way the night went for both of these young stars.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) March 24, 2018
In a game the Sixers led in the third quarter by 29 points, there were no shortage of contributors. Dario Saric hit three triples in the first quarter alone and finished his night with 18 points. Robert Covington was outstanding defensively, tallying 4 steals and 2 blocks.
The only downside on the evening was the bench being unable to hold a 27-point fourth quarter lead. Brett Brown had to bring his starters back in with a few minutes left after the Wolves had cut their deficit to 10. The starters are over goofing off behind Molly Sullivan on the television broadcast. They don’t have time to come back in and clean up your mess, bench unit!
Even with the bad taste in the mouth from that fiasco, the win still guaranteed Philadelphia’s first winning season in an 82-game campaign since the 2004-05 season. They’re 12 games over .500 for the first time in 15 years and have a playoff magic number of 0 (there’s some obscure tiebreaker that kept them from already clinching a playoff spot). The Sixers have figured out how to beat up on the league’s bottom-feeders, and now they’re doing the same thing against the middle class. It’s only a matter of time before the big boys will have to watch their backs as well.