Both teams were undefeated coming in. The Sixers were coming off a win in Atlanta and were the only undefeated team in the Eastern Conference. The Timberwolves arrived after defeating the Miami Heat in South Florida and were one of two undefeated teams in the Western Conference.
Note the key verb “were” in that last paragraph since the Timberwolves no longer are an undefeated team in the Western Conference after getting beat by the Sixers 117-95 in South Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday night.
Offensively, there was an obvious theme to the night: get the ball in the paint. The Sixers pounded the paint early with Joel Embiid, Al Horford, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris. Such a strategy was a little boring to watch, but the team was 6/8 in the paint in the first quarter en route to a 32-24 lead after 12 minutes. The next twelve minutes were a bit flashier as the Sixers started draining three pointers. (Yes, I know it was only 2-5, but made threes are made threes.)
The Sixers continued to live RENT FREE in the paint as their size was just too much for Minnesota and Karl-Anthony Towns who had 13 points in the first half. The problem was that he had no other offensive help.
After halftime, it was more of what was working: bully ball.
You’ve heard that someone that’s bullied can only take so much before they fight back, right? Well, that’s exactly what happened:
KAT and Embiid GOING AT IT.— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 31, 2019
Karl-Anthony Towns had had enough of getting bludgeoned underneath and it all came to a head when he and Embiid got into a little kerfuffle. (I love the word “kerfuffle”, and it’s so rare that I get to use it.) Embiid and Towns went to the floor followed by a solid attempt at a submission move by Ben Simmons that was critiqued by Philly’s own Eddie Alvarez.
Towns and Embiid were both ejected, of course, and there may or may not be suspensions on top of it. Stay tuned for that news later this week. This seemed to give a little energy to the Timberwolves as they scored 35 in the third to cut a once 25-point lead to 14. Once things calmed down to start the fourth, the bully ball tactics continued.
In total, the Sixers scored 117 points. Half of those points (60) came in the paint. That’s not to say the team didn’t have ANY perimeter scoring. Furkan Korkmaz actually had a decent game scoring 17 points on ten shots (3/8 from three) in a little over 21 minutes for a plus/minus of +9. Ben Simmons added 16 points and seven rebounds with three steals and two blocks. Adding to the defense, rookie Matisse Thybulle had four steals and two blocks in 20 minutes, but he was limited due to foul trouble.
Al Horford (12 points, 16 rebounds) and James Ennis III (8 points, 11 rebounds) helped with Windex dudies with the Sixers minus Embiid for a quarter and a half to give a 56-34 rebound advantage. This win was a physically dominant one for the Sixers, and let’s just keep that going as the team travels to the Moda Center to face the Portland Trailblazers this Saturday at 10pm EST/7pm PST, shall we?