Sixers vs Timberwolves: The Philadelphia 76ers are visiting Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves in a battle of two of the top teams in the league right now. The Sixers are on the tail end of back-to-back games, having lost to the Cavaliers on Tuesday night, at home, 122-119 in overtime. The Timberwolves will be rested having last played a 117-100 win over the Knicks on Monday night.
Sixers vs Timberwolves info
Who: Philadelphia 76ers (10-4) at Minnesota Timberwolves (10-3)
When: 8:00 pm EST
Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, Minn.
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBA League Pass, Bally’s Sports North
Sixers vs Timberwolves betting info
Spread: Philadelphia 76ers +5 | Minnesota Timberwolves -5
Moneyline: Philadelphia 76ers +164 | Minnesota Timberwolves -198
Total: Over/Under 221
What to watch from the Sixers
The Sixers need a win after a disheartening loss in their final in-season tournament game against the Cavaliers that saw them fall 122-119 in overtime. While it’s still early in the season, the Sixers have established that MVP Joel Embiid and guard Tyrese Maxey are two bonafide stars on the team.
Against the Cavaliers, Embiid dropped 32 points to go along with 13 rebounds and 5 assists. The stats are just his everyday production this season as he’s stepped up his game, even more than last year. Embiid also finished the game with 5 blocked shots, which is one off his season high. The issue was that Embiid only shot 9-21 from the floor and that’s not going to help the team win games.
Tyrese Maxey did his best from a statistical standpoint, giving the team 30 points, 4 rebounds, and 6 assists. Where Maxey had trouble, more so than Embiid, was shooting. Maxey was just 11-28 from the field and shot just 3-12 on his three-point attempts. When the two stars of the team are shooting poorly, the rest of the team must contribute or else you wind up with the same results as the Cavs game.
Tobias Harris, again, just quietly getting 23 points is helping the team as he went 7-15 from the floor and 3-5 on his three-point attempts. Other than those three, the rest of the team needs to step up. Against the Western Conference-leading Timberwolves, all three of the top Sixers players are going to have to be playing at their top level, shooting better, and contributing solid defense.
Look for Nico Batum to have a better game tonight as he works his way back into the rotation, having missed time since being acquired, as he has dealt with some personal issues. The team loves his play and energy, it’s now just a matter of getting him to get comfortable again.
While the Sixers have a new found depth this season, they need to use their pieces more wisely, as the reserves only contributed 16 points against the Cavs and those numbers need to improve if they’re going to stand a chance against the Timberwolves.
It is really coming down to the same issues they faced when coached by Doc Rivers and that’s not using the correct players at the correct times, sticking with veterans who aren’t giving you the play that you can get, on both ends of the floor, from younger, better players. We’ll see if head coach Nick Nurse makes the adjustments tonight.
For the Timberwolves
Where do you start with the Wolves? The reserves for the Timberwolves are a good group with Nickell Alexander-Walker, Naz Reid, Kyle Anderson, Troy Brown Jr., and former Sixer Shake Milton, all contruting solid minutes for the team. They have a good rotation and have been getting good minutes from the reserves.
The starters are where it’s going to be tricky for the Sixers and who’ve paved the way for the Timberwolves hot start to start the season.
It starts with Anthony Edwards, the 6’4″ 225 lb. guard who’s leading the team in scoring with 25.9 points per game. While Edwards isn’t a true threat from beyond the three-point line, shooting 30.9% this season, he has to be accounted for as his athleticism is off the charts and he scores pretty much whenever he wants. If he gets a hot hand to start the game, the Sixers will be in for a long night.
After Edwards, you have to deal with guard Mike Conley, who despite being 36 years old this season, is still giving the Wolves almost 30 minutes per game with 10.5 points and 5.1 assists each night. He’s a smart and still very good point guard to run their offense.
Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert are the “big” problem for teams opposing them. Towns is 7′ and 248 lbs. while Robert is 7’1″ and 258 lbs, with both playing different games.
While Towns is the scorer at 21.5 points per game, he’s also contributing 8.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. He’s never been a down-low, dominant force and has usually been owned in games by Embiid. His size and skill present a problem as the Sixers don’t have anyone other than Embiid who can match up physically with him, while Paul Reed and Nico Batum can provide some size and athleticism to try to hold him in check.
Rudy Gobert is winning over the fans in Minnesota this year. He’s averaging 12 points per game to go along with 11.8 rebounds as well as 2.2 blocks per game. The latter two stats put him in the top five in the NBA in both categories. Gobert is defense, as proven by his three Defensive Player of the Year trophies, and he’s showing it again this season as he’s been a huge part of the Timberwolves success.
Their big four are having all good seasons to start but the Wolves will be without starting small forward, Jaden McDaniels, who suffered a sprained ankle Monday night against the Knicks and is expected to miss a few weeks. Look for Alexander or Anderson to step into his role for the immediate future.
What to watch for tonight
The Sixers cannot have a poor shooting night against the Timberwolves as rebounds will be hard to come by. The key is Joel Embiid tonight and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him go out and get 40+ points in the game. While the Timberwolves frontcourt duo of Towns and Gobert present a problem for most teams, Embiid usually takes his game, on both ends of the court, to another level when playing against both of them and tonight should be no different.
After losing to the Cavs, this new-look Sixers team should bounce back and have a good game. Tyrese Maxey doesn’t have any gear other than high and he’s getting better on the floor, running the team, with each and every game. His speed, scoring, and athleticism should be a problem for the older Connely or even Edwards.
What the Sixers need to do is figure out a place for Jaden Springer or at least recognize when players like DeAnthony Melton, who had 4 great games before last night, are not able to handle the minutes. Melton played 41 minutes against the Cavs and wasn’t holding Darius Garland back in any way, as Garland went for 32 points. The reserves didn’t fare much better.
Having players like Pat Beverly, Robert Covington, and Daniel House Jr. is great for depth, defense, and veteran leadership. What they’re not doing is adding anything really to the team when you have someone that’s very good on the defensive side of the ball, like Springer. He’s more athletic and a much better defender than all three of the aforementioned players. But what about their skill and scoring?
Against the Cavs, the trio combined for 12 points in 47 minutes, shooting 4-10 from the field and 2-5 on their three-pointers. While Beverly and Covington had 4 combined steals, you have to believe that Springer would have fared better on the offensive side of the ball. He’s a highly athletic guard who plays very good defense and has improved his scoring and shooting over the past two years. The only way you’re going to see how good he can be on a consistent basis is to give him consistent minutes.
The Sixers head coach, Nick Nurse, needs to find a way to separate himself from using the older veteran players and recognize that the team has better options sitting on the bench, being wasted. Hopefully, this is realized sooner rather than later, so the team can work Springer into a regular spot and see how lucky they are to have his talent on the team. They should start tonight as Springer has the size and length, along with the athleticism and defensive ability to give Edwards a harder time than the older slower defenders will. I guess we’ll find out.
Prediction: 76ers 118 – Wolves 103
AP Photo/Adam Hunger