Simmons, Sixers rout Wolves for 6th straight win

2018-03-24 22_57_31-(1) Jessica Camerato (@JCameratoNBCS) _ Twitter

By Josh Liddick, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The Philadelphia 76ers (42-30) played fearlessly, aggressively, and persistently in their 120-108 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves (42-32) on Saturday night. The win was the team's sixth straight, increasing their win total to 42, for their first winning season (full 82-games) since 2004-05.

The win also inched the Sixers a step closer to clinching a playoff berth for the first time since 2012, only needing a Detroit Pistons loss to do so. However, the Bulls trailed throughout, as the Pistons got the win, 117-95 to push the Sixers' celebrations off for at least another game.

There was a lot to celebrate on Saturday, especially with how well the Sixers played against a team that has made noise in the Western Conference this season. But without a currently injured Jimmy Butler, the Wolves aren't nearly as scary as they could be.

Minnesota proved that Saturday while trailing for most of the contest. Andrew Wiggins didn't exactly torch the Sixers' defense, but he did lead the team in scoring with 16 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. The telling stat, as usual, is plus/minus here, as Wiggins was a team-low -30 on Saturday.

Only Karl-Anthony Towns was the other starter to finish in double-figures, with 15 points on 3-of-15 shooting and 11 boards.

Needing a spark on offense, Minnesota relied heavily on their bench. Four T'Wolves bench players finished in double digit scoring. Gorgui Dieng had 15 points and 11 rebounds, Tyus Jones scored 11 points, with six assists, and three steals, Jamal Crawford had 13, Marcus Georges-Hunt 11.

If you're a fan of blowouts with the Sixers on the winning end of things, this game was for you. It almost seems like a broken record now, as the Sixers found themselves blowing out an opponent for the third straight game.

Let's not get used to it, even though it's been a long time coming to not be the team to get blown out by other teams.

To Minnesota's defense, they were coming off of a back-to-back, but the Sixers definitely didn't allow it to affect them in any shape or form.

The Sixers starting lineup got enough minutes of action where they played well enough at the start to not have to finish out the game. Head Coach Brett Brown pulled most of the starters late in the third quarter, and put the reserves in to finish the game.

Joel Embiid led all scorers with 19 points. He also had six rebounds, two assists, and three blocks. Dario Saric had 18 points in another strong shooting night. He was 6-of-10 from the field, 3-of-6 from downtown.

Marco Belinelli was strong from beyond once again, 3-of-4, and was 5-of-6 from the field for 17 points off the bench.

The highlight, of course, was Ben Simmons, who had his 10th triple double of the season, finishing with 15 points, 13 assists, and 12 rebounds. Simmons' 10 triple-doubles continue to put him in a truly elite rookie class. He is second all-time for rookies in NBA history behind Oscar Robertson (26).

According to @SixersStats on Twitter, Simmons is one of 12 active players with at least 10 triple-doubles, recording his 10 in his 71 career games. Not too shabby for the potential Rookie of the Year winner.

As the third quarter came to an end, the Sixers' lead was at 98-71, and when Brown pulled the starters, the lead shrunk to 10. The bench was unable to control the Wolves late, who were in the middle of trying to make a grand comeback. Brown put Embiid, Covington, and Simmons back into the game with 2:40 to pull away with the win.

There were highlight plays in this one, as there are with most of the other Sixers games this season, but the one that stood out was a Joel Embiid windmill dunk out into the open floor that gave the Sixers a 79-58 lead. The steal and dish from Covington allowed Embiid to gain separation for the easy dunk.

The turnover differential between the two teams was only 1, as the Sixers did end up struggling, but keeping their total (15) close to their usual average of around 16. The Wolves had 14 turnovers on the night.

Embiid has had a hard time controlling possession of the ball this season, averaging just a smidge over three giveaways per game, but only had one of the Sixers' 15.

The Wolves out-rebounded the Sixers 53-51, but the Sixers had 33 assists compared to Minnesota's 19.

The Sixers get their sixth straight win, and head into Monday night's game with the Nuggets in good enough shape to try to clinch a playoff spot. At 42-30 now, the Sixers have a real shot to get to 50 wins, needing to only go 8-2 in their last 10 games to get there.