The Sixers were unable to take advantage of the much-awaited return of Joel Embiid as they fell to the Timberwolves 121-120 in and double-overtime thriller.
It had been over three weeks since the Sixers were at full strength and this was not fully the case tonight as Shake Milton was ruled out shortly before tip-off with a groin injury. It was clear there was a lack of chemistry among the team after the time apart as they came out to a sloppy start.
The Timberwolves took advantage of the Sixers’ slow start and led by 15 points after the first quarter. The Sixers scored 0 points in the paint during the opening frame and failed to assert themselves on the offensive end. Things continued to look slow in the second quarter and the TWolves went into the half with a 56-41 lead. The Sixers shot just 3-11 from beyond the arc and Tobias Harris scored just 2 points in his 16 minutes of play.
Things began to change in the third quarter as the Sixers snuck their way back into the game. By competing at both ends of the floor, the Sixers scrapped it back to a single-digit lead. In total, they outscored the TWolves 29-16 in the third and the Wells Fargo Center came alive. The Sixers carried this effort into the fourth quarter and the game turned into a brutal fight down the stretch.
Ultimately the game was too close to decide in 48 minutes and an Anthony Edwards three-point attempt could not give the TWolves a win. The first overtime period also came down to the wire as the Sixers were down 3 with 5.6 minutes remaining. Tyrese Maxey was fouled when attempting to take the ball up the floor and was sent to the free-throw line. With just 2.1 seconds remaining, the Sixers put Andre Drummond into the game in order to attempt to intentionally miss a free throw.
Drummond was able to answer the prayer and push the game into a second overtime period. Joel Embiid put on an MVP-like performance and scored 13 of the Sixers 20 overtime points. Despite holding control for most of the second overtime period, Tyrese Maxey had an uncharacteristic turnover with 10.9 seconds remaining which opened the door for the Timberwolves. Taurean Prince took the ball down the court and put the TWolves ahead by 1 with just 4.8 seconds remaining. Joel Embiid was unable to get a good look as time expired and the Sixers ultimately fell 121-120 dropping them to 10-10 on the year.
While the final possession left a sour taste, Joel Embiid was excellent in the matchup with the Timberwolves. In his first game back since his three-week Covid absence, the big man played 45 crucial minutes for the Sixers. Embiid scored a game-high 42 points and 14 rebounds and answered the call for a major bucket multiple times down the stretch. The Sixers would have had no business being in the game if it was not for his impressive play.
Embiid also attacked the basket at a much greater rate which is a super positive sign for how his knee is feeling. His physical play forced Karl Anthony-Towns to foul out late in the fourth quarter and led to 21 free-throw attempts. Considering the Timberwolves attempted just 16 as a team, these free points were extremely impactful throughout the game.
This was a heartbreaking loss for the Sixers as they had several chances to secure a win. One of the positive characteristics of this Sixers team so far this year has been their resilience and ability to fight back in games. This almost resulted in a win tonight, but the final product was unable to be secured. The recent stretch of games has been incredibly grueling, but the window where moral victories are acceptable must be shut.
Now sitting 10-10 on the year, the Sixers need to start tallying some wins. The Timberwolves played a solid game overall, but this was a disappointing result from the Sixers perspective. The Sixers will not have time to rest long as they will be back in action against the Magic on Monday.
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire