The Philadelphia 76ers take on the Minnesota Timberwolves this evening in a game that feels like its about more than just wins or losses. That’s because for the first time since trading for Jimmy Butler, the Sixers will play against Dario Saric (unfortunately, Robert Covington will not be playing in the game as he’s been sidelined with an ankle injury since January 2nd).
The Timberwolves, fresh off of a win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday, come into town looking to improve upon their 21-22 record, which would have them on the outside looking in if the playoffs started today. The Sixers are hoping to get things back on track following a string of underwhelming performances in their last three contests, including losses to the Wizards and Hawks and a three-point victory over the lowly New York Knicks.
Since becoming a member of the Timberwolves, Dario Saric has played well in a bench role (23 MPG) — a role that is new to him after being a starter for much of his Sixers’ career. Thus far into his time in Minnesota, Saric is averaging 16.0 points and 8.3 rebounds per-36 minutes, and has converted threes at a 36.5% clip (compared to just 30% in Philly before the trade). It will be interesting to see how Dario interacts with the Wells Fargo Center crowd. Saric departed in good graces as a fan favorite, and seems to be widely missed by his former teammates from a locker room presence perspective. I would imagine the Homie reciprocates the love that the Philadelphia crowd will show him — maybe a sort of salute or nod to the bleachers upon introduction; subtle, short and sweet.
Saric is obviously not the only player facing his former team tonight. Jimmy Butler will square off against the Timberwolves for the first time since his very contentious and very public falling out in Minnesota. I’m personally envisioning a cartoon-ish version of Mr. Butler, foaming at the mouth before the game tips off, death-staring Andrew Wiggins into not even playing, and verbally abusing Karl-Anthony Towns all game. While none of that may actually happen, there’s a rather decent chance Butler brings a little extra tonight.
It will be an exciting exhibition, to say the least. And it goes without saying, but if the Sixers lose tonight’s game, they obviously lost the trade as well, and should strip everything down, trade what little assets they have left, and relocate the franchise.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
When: 7:00 pm EST
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia PA
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 the Fanatic