There will be no complaints about quality of opponent tonight.
The Sixers knocked off the Western Conference’s top-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves 127-113 Wednesday night behind dominant performances from their stars. Joel Embiid put up 51 points on a silly 68% field goal percentage.
Tyrese Maxey scored 35 points of his own, shooting 50% from the field and going 5-of-12 from downtown.
Here are some thoughts at the buzzer.
- The Timberwolves throwback jerseys they were sporting tonight were absolutely gorgeous. Making good jerseys isn’t hard, Nike!
- Philly’s offense had their hands full early, as it took them three-and-a-half minutes to get on the board and nearly five minutes to record their first field goal. It’s not surprising their struggles at the rim carried over from Monday against the likes of Rudy Gobert and Naz Reid. The Sixers shot 3-of-8 in the paint in the opening quarter, but they made up for it by shooting 50% from three-point range.
- Embiid’s first quarter was pretty tame given the pace he's been on, but he still made a dent in Minnesota’s defense. He drew two fouls on Gobert, Towns and Reid, with Gobert’s coming so quick into the game it forced Chris Finch to sit him for most of the quarter. Embiid finished the first with 10 points on eight trips to the line.
- The Sixers were very aggressive trying to get the ball out of Anthony Edwards’ hands, and for good reason. Edwards was still able to put up 10 points, but the rest of the Wolves couldn’t make the Sixers pay for all the double teams early. Minnesota shot just 38% from the field in the first and 25% from downtown, allowing the Sixers to get out to a four-point lead.
- Maxey had a difficult task with Jaden McDaniels guarding him, but he found an edge early in the second. He started his actions well behind the three-point line, giving him a ton of runway to use his speed to get around McDaniels. Once some shots started to fall, it forced Minnesota to defend way up, having Maxey doubled as he crossed half court. Seventeen of Maxey’s 20 first-half points came in the second.
- McDaniels wasn’t just a problem for the Sixers’ offense to solve, he was the Timberwolves’ leading scorer with 19 at the half. With Kelly Oubre Jr. drawing the Anthony Edwards assignment, that only left the backcourt to guard McDaniels and he made use of his height and length advantage.
- Already down Nico Batum and Robert Covington, the Sixers suffered yet another blow to their wing depth. De’Anthony Melton got tangled up late in the quarter, and had to be helped back to the locker room with a pretty bad limp. He was ruled out just after halftime with a left thigh contusion, but the Sixers took a four-point lead into the half.
- Philly’s intensity on defense was noticeably lower to start the second half, as the Timberwolves ripped off a 13-2 run, capped off by three offensive rebounds which led to six second-chance points.
- The absence of Melton made it easier for the Wolves to zero in on the Maxey-Embiid pick-and-roll as well. They just felt a little more comfortable sagging off Patrick Beverley or Danuel House Jr. Philly needed Embiid to do everything for them offensively, and he was able to carry that burden, putting up 19 of their 26 third-quarter points.
- Nick Nurse certainly wasn’t afraid to play around with rotations tonight. He brought KJ Martin in the first time late in the third, subbing in for Tobias Harris. Not much has changed for Harris. He still goes long stretches without touching the ball and seems to do more harm than good when he finally does. Through three quarters, Harris had seven points on just 3-of-9 shooting.
- Martin has only played in like two non-garbage time games this year, but he acquitted himself well. He got two good looks at the basket, one of which he finished and the other got him a trip to the free throw line, where he split the pair. The end of quarter run put the Sixers back up by three.
- Just like the first half, Maxey got into a groove when Embiid headed to the bench. After a scoreless third, Maxey scored 10 of the teams’ first 14 points of the quarter. He was meticulously working the pick-and-roll with Paul Reed as well as draining stepback threes, but this move to get around Gobert was particularly fancy.
WHAT A MOVE BY MAXEY— NBA (@NBA) December 21, 2023
Tyrese has 30 PTS
Sixers-Timberwolves | Live on NBA TV pic.twitter.com/75XBxGte5u
- Things really snowballed for Minnesota after those first six minutes. The Sixers challenged an out-of-bounds call which won them possession back, and got a free throw to start that possession after Wolves head coach Chris Finch picked up a technical. This stretch saw the Sixers push their lead to double digits and they never looked back.
- Minnesota’s defense is so good and you would never know it from watching Embiid play them. His range and handle was able to completely negate the amount of tall bodies the Wolves could throw at him. It’s unbelievable that his 51 tonight against this defense looked almost as easy for him as his recent performances against the worst defenses in the league.
- The Sixers will wrap up this home stand Friday night against Nurse’s old squad. They’ll take on the Toronto Raptors at 7 p.m. ET.