We’re off and running!
The Philadelphia 76ers have begun the season 3-0 and are the only undefeated team in the Eastern Conference (albeit after three games) after defeating the Boston Celtics on opening night. The Sixers then followed that up with two tough(ish) wins at Detroit and at Atlanta.
Before going on a four-game road swing at Portland, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Utah, the Minnesota Timberwolves come to the Wells Fargo Center. A favorite son of Sixers Nation returns (Robert Covington), and a New Jersey-born native (Karl-Anthony Towns) comes with.
There’s a lot of new happenings going on with the Timberwolves. They had their first full off-season and training camp under a new head coach (Ryan Saunders) who was the interim when Tom Thibadeau was fired last season. The off-season was also sans Jimmy Butler, who expressed great issues with the Wolves and their players in a practice that I’m still holding out hope there’s video of. (Come on. Don’t act like you don’t want to see it even a year later.)
Both seem to be positives.
The Timberwolves are also 3-0 to start the season after defeating Kyrie Irving’s 50-point performance (and this hilarious game winner attempt) in Brooklyn and the Charlotte Hornets followed by their 116-109 home opening win against the Miami Heat. Towns has had a monster start to the 2019 season averaging 32 points on 20.3 shots per game and 13 rebounds shooting 52% from the field and 51%(!) from three on close to ten attempts per game (also deserving of a “!”).
I don’t know what’s possessing Towns to take as many threes as he is, but he’s cashing out on them.
The curiously below average Andrew Wiggins is having another of his patented strange seasons. Yes, he’s the Wolves second leading scorer, but he’s doing so with poor shooting numbers (43/24/73% splits). Covington is also having a rough start to the season shooting only 28% from three, but Towns has been shooting well enough from deep to cover for both of them – which is wild considering he’s a big man.
It might be nice if the Sixers could shake off some of their three-point shooting problems. The team is only hitting about 30% from three on 104 total attempts. Mike Scott is currently leading the team hitting 45% of his threes, but Josh Richardson and Tobias Harris are shooting a combined 25%. That’s not great, and it doesn’t help that Shake Milton will miss a month or more due to injury.
A key for the Sixers tonight will be keeping the Timberwolves off of the offensive glass. They are third in the league at moment in offensive rebounding percentage (27.1%) and tied with the Denver Nuggets for third in ORB per game (13.0). Towns is averaging 2.3 of those by himself. The Sixers are fifth in the NBA right now in defensive rebounds, so it may not be a huge issue. It’s still something to keep in mind.
In order to limit Towns, the Sixers will obviously have to lean on Joel Embiid or Al Horford or whoever Towns guards on a switch. Embiid is averaging 25 per game after two games shooting 52% from the field. (He didn’t play against Detroit.) Against the Atlanta Hawks, Embiid had an insane performance: 36 points on 19 shots, 13 rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Towns had 23 and 11 against the Heat, but he downplayed an Embiid vs. Towns matchup in the Minnesota Star Tribune:
“It’s a game about trying to find a [way] to win,” Towns said. “I know everyone wants to hype it up; that’s what sells papers. But I ain’t in the business of making y’all money. I’m in the business of getting Ws, that’s what I am.”
Fair enough, Karl-Anthony, but that’s not going to stop us from hyping this up.
This is two undefeated teams.
This is a battle of two young, big stars.
This jawn is hype.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
When: 7:00 pm ET
Where: Wells Fargo Arena, Philadelphia, PA
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic
Philadelphia: Shake Milton (OUT, knee)