By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) December 13, 2017
Philadelphia 118, Minnesota 112 (OT) – Box Score
In some ways, Tuesday night was a terrific win for the Sixers. Entering play losers of four straight and facing a Minnesota team on the road that sits in fourth place in the Western Conference, the Sixers overcame a season-high 38-point explosion from Jimmy Butler to prevail in a thrilling overtime victory.
Joel Embiid showed no sign of the back injury that caused him to miss the last two games and have a masseuse bring a table onto the court pre-game to loosen him up. He did look every bit the headliner this nationally-televised game made him out to be, tallying a hyper-efficient 28 points, 12 rebounds, and 8 assists in a career-high 39 minutes, sinking two clutch free throws in the closing seconds (he shot 11-12 from the line on the night) to force overtime. Sixers fans that stayed up well past midnight for the conclusion of this one woke up satisfied, if not exactly refreshed after an abbreviated night of sleep.
Joel Embiid with the picture-perfect eurostep pic.twitter.com/V3ph4UXCYX
— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) December 13, 2017
In other ways, Tuesday night was an awful, ugly win for the Sixers. Philadelphia turned it over a ghastly 26 times, compared to just 10 for Minnesota. The only reason the game was even close was because the Wolves were trying to solve the national infrastructure question by laying a sturdy brick foundation around the Twin Cities, sinking only 1 of their first 22 three-point attempts, before Jimmy Butler finally made two straight in the final two minutes of the game to put the Wolves back up by two points (Minnesota finished 5-29 (17.2%).
Still without Robert Covington to a back injury of his own, the Sixers opted to go with an ultra big lineup against a Wolves team that plays both Karl-Anthony Towns and Taj Gibson together for heavy minutes. Philadelphia started Richaun Holmes in place of RoCo, meaning they had a 6’4″ J.J. Redick surrounded by four guys 6’10” or taller. The result was some questionable spacing, made more curious by the fact that the only real shooting threats off the bench, Jerryd Bayless and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, only played a combined 19 minutes.
Although the Sixers shot well from behind the arc (11-26 for 42.3%), Minnesota wasn’t honoring the shooters out there, packing the lane and clogging up all the passing and driving lanes. This situation most negatively impacted Ben Simmons, who had possibly in worst game as a pro, failing to score for the first 46 minutes of the game and turning it over 7 times. Aside from some gorgeous lob feeds to Richaun Holmes and a few dunks over feeds from Embiid, Simmons was at best a non-factor, and at worst, a hindrance to the team as he refused to ever take the open 12-footers Minnesota was providing him.
Ultimately, as Brett Brown said in his post-game press conference, “We found a way to stay together and grind out a win.” All it counts for is one notch in the win column, and when the Sixers are jockeying for playoff positioning in April, they won’t remember how ugly this game was for the first 46 minutes. Crucially, Joel Embiid looked healthy, and a healthy superstar is a luxury in Philadelphia sports this past week. Philadelphia will have a couple days to rest before taking on the Thunder back home Friday night. If only I could say the same (*huge yawn*).
- He doesn’t fill a glaring need, but I’m really enjoying the Trevor Booker experience so far. He had 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists in 20 minutes off the bench, also at one point blocking Taj Gibson and giving an emphatic “no way” crossing of the arms to fire up the Sixers bench. Love the energy.
- J.J. Redick (26 points) is terrific at drawing those cheap little fouls when he rises up to shoot. He got one of this calls late in the game on a three-point attempt (making all three FTs on his way to an 11-11 night at the charity stripe).
- Dario Saric (14 points, 8 rebounds) was quiet most of the night, but had a huge stretch in the final minutes of the regulation. The Homie (playing without goggles again) accounted for nine straight points, sandwiching two three-pointers around a gorgeous feed to Richaun Holmes for an and-1 at the rim. His ability to space the floor (somewhat) and terrific court vision were reasons why the huge lineup was able to even function on a limited basis.
- Richaun Holmes had his first double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds. I don’t know how he manages to grab and finish some of those lob attempts in the 0.2 seconds he has before it looks like he’s going to crash into the rim. Remind me again why he was a DNP-CD for most of the season?
- It gets talked about a lot, by Minnesota head coach Tom Thibodeau playing his guys heavy minutes is absurd. There is absolutely no excuse for playing a young center like Karl-Anthony Towns 48 minutes. The Sixers were able to pull away in overtime partially because they didn’t turn it over in the extra frame (excepting a shot clock violation at the end when they handed the ball to the ref), but also because the Wolves were flat-out exhausted.