Two years ago it would have been unimaginable for the Wolves and Sixers to face off on a TNT Thursday night broadcast, usually a night with few games so the TNT doubleheader gets all the attention. Fast forward to this season and both these teams are on the short list for most exciting and talented young teams. Both teams are right around the point in their rebuilds where they’d hope to start pushing for the playoffs, the Wolves are obviously closer to reaching that point, but playing in the East gives Philly an easier path to making the playoffs (that won’t happen this year though). The Sixers came into the Target Center tonight with the worst record in the East and only the Pelicans have a worse record in the West.
One huge bright spot for the Sixers this year has been Joel Embiid. He sat out his first two seasons, but appears to have been worth the wait with how he’s played early this season. They’re bringing him along slowly in terms of court time and resting him every now and then, but when he’s on the court he has shown to be a force. I was very interested to see how the Wolves would defend him because Embiid is one of the bigger bodies in the league. The Wolves put Gorgui and Aldrich on him for most of the night and they were mostly able to keep him at bay, he had 10 points and 10 boards.
One thing all Wolves fans were interested in watching was if the 3rd quarter woes would continue to plague this young team. Not tonight though, the Wolves weren’t gonna squander this lead. Wiggins hit a 3 to punctuate a stellar first half and put the Wolves up 28. At the end of the 3rd they had relinquished one point from that lead thanks to a last second 3 from Stauskas. Philly is the exact type of team the Wolves needed to play against to get their third quarter mojo back, one of the few teams in the league with less experience than them. They relinquished a few more points of that lead in the 4th quarter with a final score of 110-86. This is about as stress-free of a win that a team can hope for.
Wiggins continues to looks so comfortable on the offensive end, he’s really looking like he’ll be all-star caliber soon. He ended up with 35 points on 14/20 shooting (which is absurd) but something equally promising was his 10 rebounds and 4 assists. For most of his career Wiggins has showcased his ability to score, but not really brought much else to the table. Good to see him contributing in other areas, over his last 5 games he’s averaging almost 4 assists a game so hopefully this is a trend. Towns was fantastic as well, ending with 25 points and 10 rebounds. Even with the game way out of reach Towns took it to Embiid in the 4th quarter, including a couple highlight-reel dunks. It was nice to see his competitive edge take over and continue to drive him even though the game was locked up. Embiid has sort of been the new young stud that the league has fallen in love with and Towns seemed to set out tonight to remind everybody of how great he already is.
Dunn played the most minutes off the bench, playing 23 minutes. Interesting to see Thibodeau giving the backup point minutes to Dunn over Tyus after it seemed Tyus had passed Dunn in the rotation in the last couple games that Rubio missed.
Wiggins, Lavine and Towns all played over 38 minutes. This game was never in jeopardy in the second half and Thibodeau’s penchant for giving his top guys big minutes has been well documented. Just something to continue to watch going forward, and the effects of extended minutes won’t be seen this season, but down the road with excessive and unnecessary wear and tear in situations like this.
Nik Stauskas actually looked decent for Philly, albeit in a blowout. It seemed like he was on his way out of the league after last season, but here he is playing 20 minutes a night for Philly. He went 3/6 from beyond the arc and scored 13 points.