Sixers host Wolves in rematch with a playoff spot in sight

By Dan Knerr, Sports Talk Philly staff

Tip-off: 6:00 pm ❖ Location: Philadelphia, PA ❖ TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia ❖ Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic

The Philadelphia 76ers (41-30) have a chance to head to the playoffs tonight for the first time in six years against the MinnesotaTimberwolves (42-31), if the Detroit Pistons lose to the Bulls.  The last time these two teams met was back on December 12th when the Sixers pulled off a 118-112 overtime victory. 

The Sixers look to push their winning to six while the Wolves are coming off wins against the Clippers, Wizards, and Warriors in their last six games.  They are coming off a two-game winning streak of their own.  This will be an exciting match-up between some of the brightest young stars of the NBA. 

A chance to clinch

The Sixers' magic number to clinch a playoff spot is one, and what a more fitting way to get closer than in front of their home fans.  Philadelphia has endured "The Process" years and has been patiently waiting for Sam Hinkie's master plan to pan out.

The Sixers are hoping the Pistons fall to the Bulls tonight, as they will not be able to clinch a spot in the playoffs while controlling their own destiny.

If all goes as planned and the dominoes fall in the right way, tonight may finally mark the culmination of these painful years we've all endured, and it feels so right. 

The plan is going as hoped, if not better.  Who would have expected this team to clinch a playoff spot with ten games remaining in the season?

The Wells Fargo Center should be rocking tonight, and hopefully the energy will propel the team to victory.

Despite the excitement of an impending playoff birth, Joel Embiid and the Sixers are eyeing bigger and better things.  They want to secure as many wins as they can in order to solidify home-court advantage in round one of the playoffs.

KAT's recent surge

With Jimmy Butler being out for the past month, Karl-Anthony Towns has done a fine job shouldering the load for his team.  Over the last month that Butler has missed, he's averaged 25 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per contest.  This effort has allowed his team to stay afloat, going 6-5 without their superstar. 

He's been particularly dominant in the team's last two wins against the Knicks and Clippers, averaging 27 points and shooting a combined 5-of-10 from three-point range.

The Timberwolves hold the seven seed in the West, and will be hungry to improve their playoff situation tonight.

Being that Towns and Embiid are arguably the two best up-and-coming centers in the NBA right now, this is sure to be an exciting match-up.  The two have given each other a hard time on social media and enjoy going at it during games. 

Sixers hitting their stride

As the season goes on, the Sixers keep getting hotter and hotter.  They've won five in a row and seven of their last ten.  Sure the last five were against non-playoff teams, but it is undeniable that the Sixers are hitting their stride.

The ball movement in their last few outings has been dazzling.  They've also put together quite a reel of highlights during this win streak that look like those of a team that has what it takes to compete with anyone in the NBA.

It seems that this team is peaking at the perfect time.

It is clear the team is gelling well and while having as much fun as anyone in the NBA.  Watching Fultz, Simmons, Embiid, and RoCo video-bomb Molly Sullivan during post-game reports is simply hilarious.

Aside from the entertainment value, it's also a testament to how loose and confident the team is feeling as well as how well they're getting along.  It seems that the Sixers have found the right blend young core combined with bonafide veterans.  This chemistry may propel them to wins come playoff time.

The cornerstone of the team, Joel Embiid, seems to be feeling it as well.  In Thursday's blowout of the Magic, Embiid took a step-back three and immediately sprinted down the court. 

This Curry-esque move is not only flashy and smooth, it really shows how confident he's feeling in his stroke.  There are not many players that have the confidence to do this, and the fact that Embiid's doing this at such an early stage in his career really shows how comfortable he feels. 

He is virtually a lock to dominate any team down low, but if his shot is falling when the playoffs roll around and the game's coming to him this easily, look out. 

This team is way ahead of where anyone thought they'd be this season, and they have a real shot at home-court advantage in the playoffs, which completely changes the dynamic of a series against any team in the East.  They currently hold a tie for the four seed with the Pacers, and are just a game and a half back from the Cavs who hold the three seed.

The Wizards are close behind, trailing the Sixers and Pacers by a game and a half.

When you look at the rest of the schedule, it is very possible that the Sixers will nab that three seed, especially if they can beat Cleveland at home on April 6th. 

Either way, a playoff series against a Sixers team with home-court advantage is a match-up that nobody in the East wants.  The next step towards achieving this is a win tonight against a tough Minnesota team.


Matchup Preview | March 24, 2018
Minnesota Timberwolves
(42-31, 15-22 Away)
  Philadelphia 76ers
(41-30, 23-11 Home)
Stats Comparison
110.0 Points Per Game 108.4
107.6 PPG Allowed 105.5
48.1% Field Goal % 46.8%
80.5% Free Throw % 75.9%
36.0% 3-Point % 36.8%
41.8 Rebounds 46.8
4.2 Blocks 4.9
8.3 Steals 8.0
11.8 Turnovers 16.2
Projected Starters
Jeff Teague Point Guard Ben Simmons
Andrew Wiggins Shooting Guard J.J. Redick
Nemanja Bjelica Small Forward Robert Covington
Taj Gibson Power Forward Dario Saric
Karl-Anthony Towns Center Joel Embiid
Injury Report
Jimmy Butler
  Markelle Fultz
Derrick Rose
  Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot
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