Joel Embiid

Sixers-Timberwolves observations: Salvaging the road trip

Sixers-Timberwolves observations: Salvaging the road trip

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MINNEAPOLIS — Joel Embiid scored 28 in his return, and JJ Redick added 26 points as the 76ers defeated Minnesota, 118-112, in overtime on Tuesday.

Embiid, who missed the Sixers’ last two games with back tightness, tied the game with a pair of free throws with 14 seconds remaining in regulation. He finished the night 11 for 12 from the free throw line and 8 for 16 from the field, a stat line that included a three-pointer with 1:39 remaining in overtime.

The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Sixers (14-13), who had struggled in the fourth quarter in their recent losses. The team trailed, 86-77, with six minutes remaining in regulation Tuesday but went on a 14-4 run that culminated with Richaun Holmes' three-point play with 2:17 to go.

Holmes finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds as he played 33 minutes while filling in for the injured Robert Covington. Dario Saric added 14 points and eight rebounds in 40 minutes.

• Embiid appeared comfortable throughout the night, moving past Minnesota defenders for dunks on several plays while guarding Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng. He fell in pain late in the third quarter under the Sixers' basket but returned early in the fourth and played a total of 39 minutes, a new career high. He also nearly had a triple-double by adding 12 rebounds and eight assists. 

• Backup point guard T.J. McConnell also returned for the Sixers after missing five of the past six games with a shoulder injury. He made his first three shots and also didn't appear to have trouble with movement as he finished with seven points in 26 minutes.

• Redick was just 6 for 15 shooting but scored 16 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. 

• Ben Simmons was also surprisingly quiet for most of the night. He went most of regulation without a point as Minnesota's Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins guarded him. But Simmons scored seven points in the game's final 6:17, including two baskets in the final 1:17, and also added eight assists (see highlights).

• The 76ers struggled with turnovers throughout regulation but committed just one in overtime. They still finished with a season-high 24, many coming on errant cross-floor passes.

• The team mitigated the turnovers by limiting Minnesota to just 41.7 percent shooting in regulation, including just 3 for 24 from three-point range. Butler was the Timberwolves' most effective scorer as he finished with a game-high 38 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter. However, the Timberwolves were 4 for 12 shooting in overtime.

• The Sixers limited Minnesota's ability to drive to the basket throughout the night as they forced the Timberwolves to take lower-percentage two-pointers. The Timberwolves (16-12) had just two turnovers in the first half but finished the game with 10. Wiggins scored 20 and Towns added 17 for Minnesota.

• Veteran forward Trevor Booker scored 12 points on 6 for 8 shooting in his third game with the Sixers since joining the team in last week’s trade with Brooklyn.

Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, T.J. McConnell questionable

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Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, T.J. McConnell questionable

Updated: 2:10 p.m.

The Sixers might get some reinforcements back to help try to halt their losing streak.

Joel Embiid, Robert Covington and T.J. McConnell are listed as questionable tonight in Minnesota (9:30 p.m./NBCSP+).

Embiid (back tightness) sat out Saturday night’s loss because of load management and then was a last-minute scratch against the Pelicans Sunday. Covington (lower back contusion), who was injured diving into the stands for a loose ball against the Cavs Saturday, also missed Sunday night’s loss. McConnell suffered a sprained AC joint in the Sixers’ win over the Wizards back on Nov. 29. He came back and played 18 minutes in the team’s loss to the Lakers, but then missed the first two games of the road trip in Cleveland and New Orleans.

Embiid’s injury is not believed to be serious. The big man himself didn’t seem too concerned.

“If it was the Finals, I'm sure I could have gone,” Embiid said Sunday. “But we've got 82 games and they don't want me to push if I'm not a hundred percent, so that's what I did.”

The Sixers will look to snap a four-game losing streak — their longest of the season — against the reloaded Timberwolves (16-11). 

Is this the start of injuries portion of Sixers' season?

Is this the start of injuries portion of Sixers' season?

No Joel Embiid? No Robert Covington? No T.J. McConnell? No problem last night for the Philadelphia 76ers. Well, maybe one problem, and that's that they didn't have enough healthy good players to compete with an essentially full-strength New Orleans Pelicans squad for 48 minutes, losing 131-124 (JRUUUUUUEEEEE). That was kind of a problem. 

We all knew we'd get here at some point this season -- the stretch of games where various key Sixers are suffering from various prohibitive maladies, as Brett Brown is forced to juggle his starting lineup and overall rotation every night and we're waiting with baited breath before each tip-off to see who'll be showing up. It's pretty much unavoidable for most teams, and all but guaranteed for the post-Process Sixers. It's just a question of when it comes and how long it lasts. 

Over the weekend, I made the rookie mistake of mentioning how despite the Sixers suffering two embarrassing home defeats, making a trade I find personally insulting and giving us another "Oh yeah, Markelle's doing great -- you can't see it, and you won't for another three weeks, but just trust us, he's all good" Fultz update, everything still was OK because Embiid was still healthy and as long as he's healthy who even cares about whether the sun rises or not? Wouldn't you know it, the next day he's a gametime scratch with back soreness. He says he could've played if it was the finals (though not the other playoff rounds, I guess?) and expects to play in Minnesota on Tuesday, but a one-game flare-up has not traditionally lasted just one game for JoJo, so we'll see about that one tomorrow. 

Maybe it's some kind of back virus that Robert Covington caught diving into the stands in Cleveland on Saturday. Scans were negative on Cov after the game, but according to Derek Bodner, he's still considered doubtful for Tuesday's game in Minnesota. And while T.J. McConnell hoped to be back as early as Thursday's game against the Lakers, his lingering absence with a shoulder injury is definitely becoming something of a concern for the Sixers, especially with Stauskas gone, Fultz still out, and Jerryd Bayless showing Mariah Carey-like target accuracy on his jumper the last couple games. 

In the meantime, the Sixers have dropped four in a row and fell to .500 in the standings -- out of the playoff picture in the East, even. This is hardly tragic, especially since the Sixers have had one of the hardest schedules in the league so far, and should have plenty of time to make ground back up in the top-heavy East once they get healthy and come together. But as we all know from experience, that last part is easier said than done, and once injury season really hits, it gets to be a lot of one step forward, two sprained ankles backward. Pray we don't get to Christmas and have to trot out a Bayless-Redick-TLC-Booker-Johnson lineup on national TV.