Instant Observations: Embiid Scores 51 Points in 76ers’ Statement Win Over Timberwolves

Instant Observations: Embiid Scores 51 Points in 76ers’ Statement Win Over Timberwolves Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers (19-8) defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves (20-6), currently the top team in the Western Conference, 127-113 on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

It was a statement performance for the Sixers’ star duo of Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. Embiid finished the game with 51 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block. Maxey added in 35 points and five assists. Together, they accounted for 86 of the Sixers’ 127 points. The Sixers were without Nic Batum (right hamstring strain) and Robert Covington (illness).

Minnesota was led in the loss by Anthony Edwards’ 27 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Karl-Anthony Towns added in 23 points and 13 rebounds. The Timberwolves were without Jaylen Clark (right Achilles tendon rupture rehab).

The Sixers next take on the Toronto Raptors on Friday night. Here are some instant observations from the win over the Timberwolves:

Embiid’s masterpiece performance

The Timberwolves came into the game with the league’s top-ranked defense, possessing a 106.8 defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions). In the opening few minutes, it looked like the Sixers would have their hands full attempting to generate any offense. The Sixers did not get on the board until an Embiid free throw with 8:31 remaining in the opening quarter. After missing their first seven shots, Kelly Oubre Jr. made the team’s first basket of the game on a 3-pointer with 7:09 remaining.

One of the lone positives from an otherwise ugly start was Embiid forcing Rudy Gobert to the bench with two quick fouls. While his shot was not falling, Embiid was still able to produce through consistently getting to the free-throw line. He made all eight of his attempts from the charity stripe in the opening quarter. His success from the free-throw line, along with some strong outside shooting and improved ball movement, was key to turning things around for the Sixers. Despite the brutal start, the Sixers still managed to have a 28-24 lead going into the second quarter.

For as bad as Embiid shot in the first quarter, he picked things up and was able to dominate for the remainder of the contest. He used his mid-range game at the elbow to get going in the second quarter, forcing Gobert to step out and defend him around the free-throw line. The big fella went into halftime with 20 points, and he proceeded to nearly match that total in the third quarter alone. With his mid-range jumper in rhythm, he then began going to work in the paint. Minnesota’s big men had no answer for Embiid’s combination of touch and power. The Sixers came out of halftime cold, but Embiid single-handedly kept them in the game. He scored 19 of the team’s 26 points in the third quarter.

Embiid has somehow been having an even better season than he did last year when he won the MVP award. His performance in this game against the top-ranked Minnesota defense was a masterpiece.

Maxey has statement game against Minnesota

One of the biggest positives to take away from the Sixers’ season thus far has been Maxey’s dominant play. Facing the league’s top defense, he added another feather to his cap. After being a non-factor as a scorer in the first quarter, he completely flipped a switch in the second frame. The 23-year old scored 17 points in the second quarter, asserting himself from both inside and outside the arc. He terrorized the Minnesota defense with a combination of 3-point shooting and speed on drives to the basket. He successfully got to the free-throw line, knocking down all five of his attempts in the first half. Getting to the charity stripe has been something which he has struggled with at times this season.

Maxey really turned things up a notch in the fourth quarter. He scored 15 points in the final quarter, with most of them coming on strong drives to the basket. Minnesota’s defense, specifically Jaden McDaniels, gave Maxey fits at times in this game. However, in the later stages of this contest he was able to consistently use his speed to penetrate into the paint and put Minnesota’s big men on their back foot. Between his driving ability and quick trigger from beyond the arc, Maxey proved unstoppable in the fourth quarter.

The lone thing to pick at from Maxey’s play in this contest was his turnovers. He committed an uncharacteristic five turnovers. Most of those turnovers came while attempting to execute pocket passes to Embiid in the two-man game. While Gobert got cooked by Embiid in this game, he did do a fairly good job stepping up and using his length to prevent the easy pocket passes Maxey is accustomed to making.

Sixers’ defensive struggles on the perimeter

The Sixers did a solid job throwing a lot of looks at Edwards, although their efforts at slowing him down proved unsuccessful. De’Anthony Melton had the best shot at slowing Edwards, but he was forced to leave the game early in the second half after banging knees with McDaniel. The team later ruled him out with a left thigh contusion.

Oubre, who started in place of Batum, had a poor night defensively. He spent some time defending Edwards, which predictably did not go well. Oubre does not have the speed to keep up with a shifty player like Edwards. However, his defensive struggles were not limited to just Edwards. Minnesota found success attacking him consistently throughout the night, regardless of the matchup. Oubre overall had a poor night, finishing with just seven points, two rebounds and two steals.

With all of the team’s defensive struggles on the perimeter, it was shocking to see Jaden Springer not receive any minutes against Minnesota. Springer excels defensively and could have made a positive impact on this game.

Harris continues to struggle

Tobias Harris got off to such a good start to the season. He was scoring efficiently, playing strong defense and excelling in his role on the team. However, his season has spiraled out of control over the last month or so. His poor play continued against the Timberwolves. He struggled defending Towns while also failing to make an impact either offensively or on the glass. Harris finished the game with nine points, five rebounds, three assists and a steal. For a guy making nearly just shy of $40 million this season, those numbers are nowhere near good enough. He continues to lack aggressiveness as a scorer, taking just 10 shots in this contest. What is more concerning is only having one attempt from beyond the arc, which is simply inexcusable for someone with his abilities. The Sixers will eventually need Harris to produce more so that all of the burden won’t have to be just on Embiid and Maxey’s shoulders.

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