The Philadelphia 76ers took the court on the second night of a back-to-back on Saturday night as they welcomed the Minnesota Timberwolves to their home court for what will almost certainly be the only time this season. The Sixers would find themselves extremely short-handed going into the night and would have their work cut out for them, even against a struggling Wolves team.
Without James Harden, Tobias Harris, Furkan Korkmaz, Jaden Springer, and most recently, Tyrese Maxey, some Sixers found themselves playing double — or even triple — their typical minutes. The second game of a back-to-back is normally uncomfortable enough, but that is magnified when so many players are playing out of their normal roles.
While that is normally the case, Shake Milton looked quite comfortable knocking down two early threes in the first quarter. Philadelphia would perform admirably until the final five minutes of the quarter when things began to unravel as the Timberwolves would go on a 21-7 run to end the first quarter.
The heart of the game — the second and third quarters — would find a bit more balanced effort by the Sixers, though the team would find themselves down 13 heading into the fourth. Many in the remaining crowd would just be hoping for a fight. And fight the Sixers did.
Philadelphia would hold the Wolves to just 15 points in the final quarter while their offense continued to click behind the efforts of Shake Milton, De’Anthony Melton (three fourth-quarter threes), and of course, Joel Embiid — though the latter would give Philadelphia a tremendous scare.
With roughly five and a half minutes left in the game, Georges Niang fell onto Embiid’s left ankle after failing to draw contact, and the Sixers’ star went down hard. The cries from the longsuffering Philadelphia crowd could be heard in an instant, and once the replay was shown in the Center, groans of sympathy pains began to pour down for their star.
Despite this injury, Embiid would remain in the game. Not only this, but he would continue to lead this team with his continued effort and fight. After missing his first shot attempt post-injury, Embiid would strip the ball from D’Angelo Russell, dive to recover it, and knock down a crucial three to make it a 12-0 run for the Sixers. A moment of pure grit and determination by Embiid.
Unfortunately, that moment could not save the game for Philadelphia as the hole the team dug themselves in the first quarter proved just too large. The Sixers fought and fought and fought some more but came up short in the end.
There is no room for moral victories in this game, but the effort and desire the team showed tonight should instill some confidence in Philadelphia that they will be able to recover once their starters return.
Nothing will come easy, and injuries will always be a part of the game, but several Sixers showed what they’re made of tonight, and while that doesn’t make up for the loss, it should count for something.
Philadelphia will remain at home, next taking on the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday, November 22nd.