The biggest news of the night was the return of Joel Embiid after a 10 game absence due to his knee injury. The excitement was at an all-time high as this marked the first time the center would play at the Wells Fargo Center with fans since last season.
While it was great to have their MVP back in action, the Sixers still had to take care of business on the court against the T-Wolves. This was a game that the Sixers were expected to win with ease, and ultimately they were able to secure a victory by a score of 122-113.
Joel Embiid picked up right where he left off and attacked the basket in his first opportunity with the ball. It took under a minute into the game before the superstar found himself at the free-throw line being showered in “MVP” chants from the Philly faithful.
In total, Embiid played 14 minutes in the first half, adding 15 points, 7 rebounds, and an assist. Joel added 9 of these points from the free-throw line as the referees were quick to blow a whistle in the first half. As proof of this, the Sixers and Timberwolves combined for 43 free-throw attempts prior to halftime. Joel ended the game with 12 made free-throws which marks his 18th game this season with 10+ points at the free-throw line. This ranks 1st in the NBA in this category.
While it was great to have Embiid back, Tobias Harris was the story for the Sixers early in this matchup. Tobias had a noticeable mismatch with 6’4 Josh Okogie guarding him and looked to take advantage of it. Harris took to the post early, scoring 14 points on 6-8 shooting. Harris scored 11 of these points in the first quarter and also had some great moments on the defensive end.
Karl-Anthony Towns showed plenty of emotion in this matchup and even dunked over on Embiid in the second quarter:
In total Towns had 17 first-half points along with 8 rebounds and clearly showed up motivated for the matchup with Embiid. Anthony Edwards also stepped up to the plate and added 16 first-half points of his own. The Sixers carried a 64-60 at halftime.
Things started to break open in the second half as the Sixers began the 3rd quarter on a 13-0 run to jump out a 77-60 lead. It took until the 7:45 mark for the Timberwolves to register their first point which forced them in a tough spot for the remainder of the game.
The Sixers bench continued to produce as the lead grew bigger throughout the game. The lead grew to as large as 19 and the Sixers went into the 4th quarter leading 97-83.
The Timberwolves showed signs of life early in the fourth, starting on a 5-0 run which were all scored by Karl-Anthony Towns. This led Doc Rivers to bring back in the starting group and stomp out any hopes of a comeback from Minnesota.
While the Sixers held control of the game seemingly the whole time, the Timberwolves continued to linger and even cut it to a 4-point game with three minutes left to play.
Tobias Harris scored 8 straight points for the Sixers in the last three minutes helping to ice the game. Harris ended with a team-high 32 points and proved to be the go-to guy in the fourth quarter once again. In the end, the Sixers secured the victory by a score of 122-113.
The biggest takeaway from the game is simply that Joel Embiid is back in action. While the Sixers went 7-3 in his absence and other members of the team were able to step up without him, they are simply not title contenders without the big fella and it was great to see him healthy again.
The momentum the Sixers carried in his absence was seen again tonight and was helpful to polishing off another victory. Embiid’s presence was felt in this one, especially on the defensive end. The 7-footer ended with 3 blocks and altered many other attempted finishes around the basket.
It was a very physical matchup for both teams, including two technical fouls given out and a flagrant foul picked up by Joel Embiid due to his smack across Karl-Anthony Towns.
On the Timberwolves’ side of things, this was a pretty impressive performance. In the second leg of a back-to-back, they mustered up the effort to go toe-to-toe in a game that they were not expected to be competitive in. Karl-Anthony Towns had an extremely impressive performance ending with 39 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Anthony Edwards also shined in this matchup and continued to show signs of his future NBA success. Edwards scored 27 points and flashed an array of tough finishes in the process.
It was disappointing that the Timberwolves were able to make it a game again, but it should be looked at as a positive that the Sixers still managed to secure a W. There will be little time to reflect on the game as the Sixers will be back in action tomorrow for a 7:00 matchup with the Grizzlies.
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire