By: Kylan Watson
The Philadelphia 76ers were riding high after beating the Milwaukee Bucks before the All-Star break. They faced the Minnesota Timberwolves who were looking to stop Philly’s momentum. The Sixers used an offensive explosion to dominate Minnesota 133-102.
The Sixers jumped on the Timberwolves from the opening tip-off. They were able to hit their shots early and set the tone for the game. This game marked the debut for Philly’s new weapon James Harden who made his mark on this game and the team already. The team looked different than they did before the break. The ball was moving, and the three-pointers were falling for Philly. They hit 19/38 three-pointers and Minnesota could do little to stop them.
Philly was led by Joel Embiid who picked-up right where he left off. He scored 34-points and grabbed 10-rebounds. For the first-time all season he did not have to do everything for this team. He was able to let the game come to him instead of forcing it. The benefit of having someone like Harden (27-points) on the floor to take most of the playmaking off him. The chemistry between Harden and Embiid will be pivotal for Philly. They have 23-games to get it together and if tonight’s game is any indication, it will be scary for the rest of the league. Both players are dynamic and got the Timberwolves defenders in early foul trouble and increased shooting opportunities for their teammates. They also both combined for 61 of Philly’s 133-points.
On Harden’s impact on the team so far, “It was fun. What he does is amazing on the basketball court. He elevates everybody’s game to a higher level,” said Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey.
Despite the scoring explosion from Embiid and Harden. Minnesota continued to fight as they made it tough for Philly all night. They were able to take full advantage of the Sixers giving them too much space and made them pay for it. They battle back to shrink the lead to 18-points and give Philly a scare. They were led by Karl Anthony-Towns (25-points) and D’Angelo Russell (23-points) who combined for 48 of Minnesota’s 102-points. They both took full advantage of Philly giving them space and it took Philly until the second quarter to stifle them defensively. That proved to be the difference maker in this game.
On playing with Harden, “That was probably the most wide open I’ve ever been in my career,” said Embiid.
The Sixers now will prepare to face the New York Knicks on Sunday afternoon. They will need another balanced scoring night. Additionally, they will need to play better perimeter defense if they want to stifle the frontcourt of the Knicks and get their 37th win of the season.