andrew wiggins

Joel Embiid puts back pain aside to get Sixers 'needed' OT win

Joel Embiid puts back pain aside to get Sixers 'needed' OT win

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MINNEAPOLIS — Joel Embiid's presence was arguably the biggest factor in the Sixers’ snapping their four-game losing streak on Tuesday.

The center was especially key in the final two minutes of regulation and in overtime, as the 76ers defeated the Timberwolves, 118-112 (see observations).

Embiid assisted on Ben Simmons' go-ahead dunk with 1:17 remaining in regulation and hit the game-tying free throws with 14 seconds remaining. He then scored seven points in overtime, including a three-pointer that gave the Sixers a seven-point lead with 1:39 to go.

Embiid finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds in 39 minutes (see highlights), despite missing the two previous games in Cleveland and New Orleans with back tightness.

"I would not have expected him to play as well as he played or as many minutes as he played," Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "… He obviously was massive."

Embiid said he didn't feel 100 percent going into Tuesday's game and added that his back was really tight before the game against New Orleans. He said he didn't have the lift during Tuesday's game that he typically does but that he knew his back would get tight while sitting.

"We needed this," he said of the win.

Embiid’s being in the lineup changes how the 76ers' offense operates, rookie Ben Simmons said. Embiid changes the team's spacing but also gives the Sixers an offensive presence in the post.

"You have to find your spot, but it's a big help also," Simmons said.

Simmons finished with just seven points, as Timberwolves wings Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins guarded him most of the night. However, the rookie was key down the stretch as he scored all seven points in the final 6:17 of regulation and overtime (see highlights).

Brown noted how Simmons ended up with a rating of plus-3 despite the below-average point total. He said he loved that Simmons and Embiid were able to connect for big plays late.

"It wasn't statistically one of his best games," Brown said of Simmons, " … [but] for him to help us get that win on the road, that's a good night."

The win also snapped the Sixers’ recent run of fourth-quarter letdowns. The 76ers trailed by nine with six minutes remaining Tuesday, but they went on a 14-4 run to take a 91-90 lead with 2:17 remaining in regulation. Richaun Holmes completed the run with a three-point play.

Brown said he thought JJ Redick, Simmons and Embiid executed well during that stretch and made note of a three-pointer Redick hit to start the run. 

"To me, that was the tipping point when things started to run," Brown said of the shot.

The coach added that the Sixers will need to cut down on turnovers in order to achieve their goals. The Sixers had a season-high 24, though none came in overtime.

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.

Give and Go: How dangerous is Sixers' 3-game road trip?

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Give and Go: How dangerous is Sixers' 3-game road trip?

Each week, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are NBC Sports Philadelphia anchor/reporter Marshall Harris and NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producer/reporter Matt Haughton.

In this edition, we examine the Sixers’ upcoming three-game road trip to Cleveland, New Orleans and Minnesota.

Harris
With a 13-11 record, including back-to-back home losses to the Suns and Lakers, all of a sudden the three-game road trip through Cleveland, New Orleans and Minnesota looks much more daunting. I have the Sixers going 2-1 on the trip. However, things could easily go badly and the Sixers could have a five-game skid on their hands.

Cleveland is a loss. Sometimes you just have to accept the reality that regardless of how a team performs, it's not taking down LeBron James and the Cavs without its best player. With Joel Embiid sitting out Saturday (see story), pulling off the upset goes from unlikely to nearly impossible. James is coming off a loss to Victor Oladipo and the Pacers. They're not trying to lose two in a row.

That brings us to Sunday and a meeting with DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and the Pelicans. Look, A.D. is just returning from a groin injury, which caused him to miss three games before Friday's loss to the Kings. This should be a fun game with Embiid back and picking up where he left off with last season's butt-slapping love fest with Boogie. I've got the Sixers winning a close one, thanks in no small part to superior guard play.

That brings us to Tuesday's matchup with Minnesota. It may very well be the most difficult because of the addition of Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague to an already formidable duo of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. This is where I think Embiid will make his mark on the defensive end of the court. Want to be Defensive Player of the Year? Then show it with strong back-to-back interior displays against the Pelicans and Wolves.

If the Sixers can shoot closer to their averages from the perimeter on this trip than they did in the last two games of their homestand, winning two of three shouldn't be a problem. But things could go the wrong way in a hurry if the threes, in particular, don't get back to falling regularly.

Haughton
Things change fast in the NBA. To start this week, the Sixers were sitting in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference and looked poised to climb even higher with some winnable games on the slate.

A pair of ugly losses later, and now they are down in the eighth seed and could possibly fall out of extremely early playoff positioning with a rough road trip.

Speaking of the trip, I agree with Marshall that it opens with a loss. Even with Embiid, it was always going to be a difficult task to come out of Cleveland on the winning end. Throw in the center’s absence, the fact that the Cavs are upset about the end of their recent streak and James’ desire to remind the NBA world that Ben Simmons isn’t anywhere near his level yet, and you can pencil in a defeat.

Things should get good Sunday. Embiid will return to find himself locked in a battle of the bigs against Cousins and Davis. The Sixers can only hope Richaun Holmes can duplicate his recent effort against the Lakers in New Orleans. Either way, the Sixers’ advantage in perimeter play should be enough to escape with a victory.

That leaves Tuesday’s clash with the Timberwolves. It should be another good one with Embiid and Towns locking horns down low while Robert Covington and Wiggins face off on the wing. However, Butler will make the difference for the T-Wolves. He has finally stopped trying to fit in with his new team and has taken over. Look no further than his averages of 26.0 points (50.7 percent shooting), 6.0 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 2.0 steals nightly averages so far in December.

A loss to the Timberwolves would put the Sixers at 1-2 on the trip and losers of four out of their last five games. That’s a stretch the young team would hope to avoid in the jumbled Eastern Conference standings.