Despite Butler’s 38, Sixers best T-Wolves in overtime thriller

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By Josh Liddick, Sports Talk Philly editor 

Tuesday night's inter-conference clash for the Sixers (14-13) with the Minnesota Timberwolves (16-12) was everything you could've hoped for in a basketball game.

For one reason, it went to overtime. Basketball games are just so much more exciting when they go to OT. And nerve-racking.

The Sixers went to overtime for the first time this season on Tuesday night, and they pulled out the hard-fought victory, 118-112.

The win snapped a four-game losing streak for Philly and it was an all-around collective victory on all levels. In the end, contributions from the team and bailing each other out spelled victory for the Sixers.

Despite 26 total turnovers on the game, a season high, the Sixers still emerged victorious against a very strong T-Wolves squad, who came into Tuesday night's nationally televised showdown with a 16-11 record.

Jimmy Butler was very difficult to contain, especially late, but the Sixers did a good enough job limiting the impact that Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns had for the Wolves.

Butler ended up finishing the game with 38 points, Wiggins 20, and Towns 19.

Taj Gibson, who in 10 NBA seasons has averaged around 25 minutes played per game, played a whopping 40 minutes on Tuesday night. Gibson finished with seven points to go along with his 12 boards.

The Sixers have struggled to produce as a complete team during their four-game skid, but they were able to strive for a collective effort on Tuesday night.

The starting lineup for the most part played well, and the bench played significantly better for once, with many thanks pointed towards newly acquired forward Trevor Booker.

Booker's hustle and integrity off the bench really paid off, gathering 12 points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals, and a block in 20 minutes on the floor.

TJ McConnell, in his first game back since December 7, scored seven points in 26 minutes with six rebounds, two assists, and a steal.

But let's really focus on the Sixers starters, who played very well, although Ben Simmons had a ton of difficulty trying to gain offensive separation against Butler. Butler defended Ben Simmons exceptionally, limiting him to only seven points. Ben's first points came with just over a minute left in the fourth quarter.

Simmons was able to contribute in other ways, picking up eight assists, three rebounds, and a steal in 40 minutes.

Joel Embiid just had another one of those incredible games that you'll just remember for a long, long time. He did everything right, and looked good while doing it. For those people who are worried about Embiid's conditioning and continued progressional recovery from his knee injury, I really do believe his performance showed that he is ready to go almost completely 100-percent.

40 minutes for Embiid is a career-high, and he just looked consistent throughout. He was probably tired on the court, but he just didn't look like it, like he normally does after playing a high volume of minutes.

Jojo finished with 28 points, 12 boards and a career-high eight assists while also just turning the ball over twice. 

On top of that, Embiid was a near-perfect 11-of-12 from the foul line, and sunk his only attempt from beyond the arc.

My favorite plays, and probably yours too, were the pair of no-look passes to a wide open Ben Simmons under the basket.

Just so silky smooth and sneaky. Embiid does things game in and game out that just leaves even the average fan speechless.

J.J. Redick may not have looked his best shooting the wide open shot, but put him at the charity stripe and you have yourself some efficiency. There may not be another player (aside from Embiid) in the NBA that I would want besides Redick shooting foul shots. He's just so automatic.

Redick was a perfect 11-for-11 from the line, and put the game out of reach late.

Richaun Holmes started at power forward for the Sixers, something that really amazed me and a lot of people. Head coach Brett Brown really did decide to go with a big starting five and it paid off due to the lack of perimeter shooting on the T'Wolves end.

Holmes had 15 and 11 points in 33 minutes for Philadelphia.

Really, there are so many takeaways from this game, but I'll just say that the Sixers had so many opportunities to blow the game and revert back to the Sixers of old where they were unable to close games out in the end.

They were matched up against a really good Wolves team, and in the end, they just outplayed them.

On the biggest stage, the Sixers were able to come away with a win in a scenario that they would usually falter in.

If Simmons wasn't matched up against Butler, or he just had more confidence to drive to the hoop or even take the outside shot, this game could very well have been busted wide open. It's amazing the Wolves were able to hold Simmons to single-digit points in 40 minutes, something most teams have been unable to manage this season.

The Sixers upcoming schedule is moving towards a stretch of games that look pretty favorable, especially if they want to get a winning streak going after this game.

The Thunder visit the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night, but that looks like it could be a very winnable game, considering the chemistry in Oklahoma City between their "Big 3" has been off significantly thus far.

They'll then play the Bulls, the Kings, and the Raptors twice in three days, leading up to the Sixers' Christmas Day game at Madison Square Garden against the Knicks.

If the Sixers win the games they are supposed to win and play like they did in Minnesota, good times seem to be ahead for a team that hasn't had many of those over the years.