December 13, 2017, 1:34 am
It was a late showdown between two up-and-coming teams. The bright lights of ESPN were on and neither team disappointed. While not the cleanest game of the season, the teams were battling back-and-forth throughout the game. All of the stars came to play and they decided four regulation quarters just wasn’t enough, so they threw in some overtime.
The Sixers had a trio of players with questions regarding their availability for game time in Embiid, Covington and McConnell. With the delicate nature the Sixers have treated Embiid so far, there was reason to doubt his likeliness to play.
It came down to the wire, but the Sixers announced that Embiid would not only be available to play but was starting. There was no doubt that the game dramatically shifted with that news. Embiid is the Sixers’ best player, the “Process”, and a matchup nightmare. His return assured the intrigue coming into the game would not be left to waste.
The Timberwolves were able to strike first and opened the game with a quick run. They parleyed that early run into a nine-point lead which they would maintain for much of the half. Philly was turning the ball over at an incredible rate the first half which would have buried them further had the Wolves capitalized on more shots.
All of a sudden though, starting late in the second quarter, the Sixers and Embiid woke up. The Sixers stopped turning the ball over, but the Wolves continued to miss shots. The nine point lead fell to three by half time, and shortly after the half fell to a deficit.
After a fairly even third quarter the Wolves once again surged in the fourth over the Sixers’ bench. Thibs rode with his starters throughout the late quarter while Brett Brown, the Sixers’ coach, had some bench players in.
While it seemingly worked for a time, the Wolves became noticeably fatigued late in the game. The lead vanished in the last three minutes of the game and the Wolves let the Sixers sneak back into the game.
Players were walking up the court every possession come the fourth while the Sixers continued to run in transition. The offense fell into predictable behavior with Butler running the show, the defense was not communicating and players just seemed to glide through the motions.
In the end the Wolves looked to be playing not to lose and it cost them the lead. In overtime the Sixers dominated with fresh legs and momentum. Each starter for Minnesota played 38 minutes with Towns playing 48 and Butler 46.
On the night the Wolves shot 40.7 percent from the field while taking 18 more shots than the Sixers. This differential was a result of 24 turnovers from the Sixers, but the Wolves just weren’t able to consistently capitalize. They also only shot 5-of-29 from 3-point range compared to the Sixers’ 11-of-26.
As mentioned above, Embiid was an enormous factor in this game. He scored 28 points with 12 rebounds, eight assists, one block and one 3-pointer on 8-of-16 shooting from the field and 11-of-12 from the line. He showed off his complete arsenal by posting up, shooting from deep, passing with both hands and putting the ball of the floor.
Ben Simmons had a real quiet game. He mostly had Butler guarding him, but there were times Gibson and Wiggins would as well. Simmons only scored seven points on 3-of-8 shooting with eight rebounds, three assists and one steal. He did commit seven turnovers though, which were supplemented by truly incredible passing in transition.
On the Wolves’ side Jimmy G Buckets, aka Jimmy Butler, was the main piece tonight scoring 38 points on 15-of-33 shooting. Butler was money late in the fourth quarter, even hitting a 3-pointer with under 20 seconds left to give the Wolves a lead. Unfortunately his final shot attempt came up short to win the game.
Karl-Anthony Towns scored 19 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, dished two assists, swiped four steals and swatted three shot attempts. He had a number of touches in the first portion of the game, but Embiid is a tough presence and the Wolves started to go away from Towns as the game went on.
Defensively Towns was okay. He had moments of solid play, and others of blatant failure. Overall given the opponent he held his own.
Andrew Wiggins scored 20 points but only shot 8-of-24 from the field, and mightily struggled in the mid range. It’s tough to tell Wiggins that the majority of shots he takes are ill-advised because he can make them, but he should be attacking the rim more often or stepping back beyond the arc as opposed to fade-aways and turnarounds from long range two.
It was a disappointing loss for the Wolves after having a good grasp on the game throughout, but let it slip away once again. Next they’ll take on the Sacramento Kings who are 8-10 over their last 18 game after starting the season at 1-8.