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Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns brawl while Sixers stay undefeated with win vs. Timberwolves

Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns brawl while Sixers stay undefeated with win vs. Timberwolves

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The Sixers beat up on the Timberwolves on the scoreboard and on the floor.

The Joel Embiid-Karl-Anthony Towns brawl overshadowed the Sixers beating Minnesota, 117-95, Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

With the win, the Sixers are one of only two teams still unbeaten — the Spurs being the other.

They’re now 4-0 heading into a daunting West Coast swing beginning Saturday night in Portland.

Here are observations from a wild one Wednesday.

Ding! Ding!

Midway through the third quarter, Embiid and Towns got tangled up after a double team that caused a Towns turnover. The two began shoving as the play went down the other end and neither player backed down. It culminated with Towns taking a swing at Embiid and both teams converging on each other on the floor. By the end of it, Ben Simmons had Towns on the ground in a headlock.

Both Embiid and Towns were obviously ejected. On his way off the court, Embiid began waving his arms to the crowd and then began shadowboxing. The crowd ate it up.

Embiid had frustrated Towns all night. This is what Towns resorted to.

KAT vs. … Horford?

For those looking to see two of the game’s best big men go at it playing actual basketball, Brett Brown disappointed you … but it was a smart coaching move.

To Towns’ credit he’s become a much improved three-point shooter. He came into Wednesday taking 9.7 threes a game and was hitting a ridiculous 51.7 percent. With that in mind, Brown opted to use the more mobile Al Horford on Towns defensively. That allowed Joel Embiid to roam and wreak havoc defensively.

As has been the case in their recent matchups, Embiid was too much for Towns to handle in the post. There was one possession early where Towns actually had a nice on-ball block on Embiid, but for the most part, the Sixers’ All-Star center had his way. Embiid had 19 points (7 of 14) in 20 minutes before the ejection. 

Bully ball, indeed

The Sixers simply beat up the Timberwolves all night. They held a huge rebounding advantage (55-34) and just smothered them all night, holding Minnesota to just 40 percent from the field.

Part of that “bully ball” mentality Brett Brown has been preaching was seen by Tobias Harris. Harris had a tough night Monday in Atlanta, going just 1 of 9 from three and 5 of 16 overall. He mentioned postgame that he felt he need to attack more and get easier looks.

Harris was aggressive early, going after mismatches. He was able to punish some of the Timberwolves’ smaller guards by simply taking a few dribbles into the paint and shooting over them. He finished with 18 points (7 of 15) and nine rebounds.

And it wasn’t just Harris. It seemed like the Sixers were hunting mismatches all night. With their size and skill, there are sure to be a lot of those on a nightly basis. You’re also beginning to see the ball movement improve. If these guys develop chemistry, look out.

Up and down Simmons

Ben Simmons came out in attack mode as he often does, but it led to some early turnovers and he still isn’t looking to take open jumpers. There have been games where you can say the looks perhaps aren’t there, but not tonight.

He still showed what he can do defensively, getting this ridiculous help block on his old pal Robert Covington.

And the alley-oop finish wasn’t too shabby, either.

Simmons seemed like he was everywhere in the second half on both sides of the ball.

While he turned the ball over six times, he did fill the stat sheet with 16 points, seven assists, three steals and two blocks.

The pick-and-roll

The last few seasons, the Sixers have been victimized mercilessly by guards who do damage out of the pick-and-roll. Josh Richardson may be completely flipping that.

Not only has Richardson been so much better guarding opposing ones by fighting through screens and accumulating “rearview” blocks, but he’s also quite skilled offensively in the pick-and-roll. The biggest reason is probably his midrange game. The ability to come off an Embiid screen and nail a 12-15 footer opens up so much for both players.

Richardson was solid with 12 points (4 of 10, 2 of 4 from three).

Stop us if you’ve heard this before …

Rookie first-rounder Matisse Thybulle came into play leading the NBA in deflections. All he did Wednesday was rack up five steals and two blocks. Embiid compared Thybulle to his former teammate Covington. Pregame, Covington said he hadn’t had the chance to see Thybulle play yet but was flattered by the compliment.

It appeared nobody on the Timberwolves had seen Thybulle play, as the rookie yet again wreaked havoc with a bunch of deflections.

The offensive game is still a work in progress. He turned the ball over three times, but does appear to be getting better with his shot selection.

Bench mob

We make a lot of the Sixers’ starters — and for good reason — but on Wednesday they got some nice contributions from their bench.

With Shake Milton out, Furkan Korkmaz will get the minutes Milton took from him back. He took advantage of that opportunity Wednesday, finishing on a floater in a pick-and-roll, hitting three threes and then converting all three free throws after being fouled on an attempt. He had 17 points overall (3 of 8 from three).

James Ennis, who’s had a rough go so far this season and played just eight minutes Monday night in Atlanta, provided some of the things that made him such a valuable contributor during the playoffs. During one sequence, he had a nice help block on rookie Jarret Culver and then followed up a Simmons’ miss on the ensuing fast break with an athletic put-back. He was extremely active on the offensive glass, pulling down five offensive rebounds and 10 boards overall.

The new skipper

Phillies manager Joe Girardi was in the house Wednesday. No, he didn’t ring the bell – that honor went to Eagles rookie running back Miles Sanders – but he did catch up with our Serena Winters.

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Sixers' Tobias Harris narrating backyard wild turkeys is quarantine comedy gold

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@tobiasharris/Instagram

Sixers' Tobias Harris narrating backyard wild turkeys is quarantine comedy gold

Tobias Harris is separated from rookie cult hero and internet goofball Matisse Thybulle, which means he had to find other ways to populate his Instagram stories with comedy.

Enter a bunch of wild turkeys in Harris's backyard.

It's unclear where Harris is riding out the NBA's season suspension, but wherever it is, he was greeted Thursday afternoon by a few preening turkeys, a welcome sight for anyone bored of looking at the same eight things in their house every day.

Harris, of course, whipped out his phone and opened up Instagram, and started filming - and narrating - the impromptu wildlife.

You're gonna want to turn your sound on:

Is... is Harris narrating these turkeys' prospective sex lives? He definitely is, isn't he?

It's all amazing, but Harris getting spooked by the aggressive turkey at the end is an absolute highlight for me. Does he not trust the integrity of those windows?!

Again, we don't know where Harris is spending his time away from basketball, but judging by the fowl play, it might be New Jersey. The Garden State is known for its hordes of wild turkeys - there are roughly 20,000 living in the state - and the Sixers' practice facility is of course located in Camden.

Between Thybulle adding a Roomba as a pet, and now Harris's encounter with wild turkeys, it's certainly been an interesting few weeks of social distancing for the Sixers.

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Celtics' Jayson Tatum weighs in on Joel Embiid-Nikola Jokic best center debate

Celtics' Jayson Tatum weighs in on Joel Embiid-Nikola Jokic best center debate

Boston Celtics star guard Jayson Tatum has caused some headaches for the Sixers over the last few years, and will likely continue to do so, but it seems he has a healthy respect for his Philadelphia rivals.

Tatum, who kept busy during social distancing Wednesday night with an Instagram Live, was first asked about the best player in the league, and then asked for his MVP pick, two classic questions - he called LeBron James the best player, and said James was going to win MVP.

Then things got a little more interesting.

Tatum was conducting the IG Live with Pep Stanciel, a basketball skills coach who has worked with NBA players in the past, and Stanciel managed to get Tatum to name the league's best player at each position.

Here's Tatum's all-league starting lineup, per NBC Sports Boston:

Point Guard: Stephen Curry
Shooting Guard: James Harden
Small Forward: LeBron James
Power Forward: Anthony Davis
Center: Joel Embiid

You're not going to hear a lot of complaints about that list from NBA fans, though I bet the most objections would wind up with Embiid as the starting center.

The argument over the NBA's best center has been a hotly-contested topic for a couple years now, with the emergence of Embiid and Nikola Jokic as two position-breaking stars who can sort of do it all. 

Embiid is an unstoppable, bullying presence in the paint who puts opponents in foul trouble and dominates the rim on the defensive end. Jokic is a visionary passer who uses his height and creativity to his advantage, both in the half-court and in transition. 

They're both fantastic, and just different enough that the basketball world has sort of reached a stalemate on who is an all-around better center.

Is Tatum showing his Eastern Conference bias, considering he faces Embiid more often? It's certainly possible. But Embiid is also just really, really good.

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