The Sixers were supposed to play the Timberwolves on Tuesday in Minnesota.
That game didn’t happen, of course, with the NBA season suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, but NBC Sports Philadelphia on Wednesday night aired a simulation via NBA 2K. It was basketball to analyze, and so we will do just that.
The simulation was a tight one as D’Angelo Russell missed a long three-pointer with the clock expiring and the Sixers pulled out a 70-67 road win (eight-minute quarters).
Why doesn't this game automatically play Here Come the Sixers?— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) March 25, 2020
Sixers with the very realistic win on the road. pic.twitter.com/RDIA96XkAY
Here are observations on the victory:
What's going on with Embiid’s shoulder?
A little over a minute into the game, Josh Richardson drew a foul and immediately grabbed at his lower back, which was a concerning sight. At the same time, Joel Embiid — wearing a red sleeve on his left arm for the first time in his career — felt around his collarbone and started rotating his left shoulder gingerly. Embiid, of course, missed five games in late February and early March because of a left shoulder sprain.
Is Embiid’s shoulder OK? Is he playing through pain? He did a similar motion twice later in the game, which naturally increases our curiosity. Perhaps he developed a new dead-ball superstition that just happens to center around the part of his body he most recently injured?
It’s also very possible this was simply a random animation that shouldn’t spark any injury concerns ... regardless, let’s hope we get a little clarity in the next simulation.
Embiid finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds. He came through in the clutch, too, hitting two free throws with 9.4 seconds left to extend the Sixers’ lead to three.
Embiid really just shushed the crowd in this game, are we sure this is a simulation? 😂 pic.twitter.com/mokz0qu4bk— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) March 25, 2020
Can’t stop Shake
Shake Milton got off to a shaky start, pun intended. He gave up two threes to D’Angelo Russell for Minnesota’s first six points and was on the bench for most of the second quarter.
After that, Milton bounced back well, scoring five important points late in the fourth, including an and-1 lefty layup on a drive right into Russell. All 11 of his points came in the paint.
Also of note: With 16.9 seconds left in the game and the Timberwolves trailing by three, mascot Crunch ran onto the court, seemingly very excited, and charged directly through Milton’s body. Milton didn’t even flinch.
Not a banner moment
With 4:42 to go in the first, Tobias Harris missed a free throw. Juancho Hernangomez grabbed the rebound, threw an outlet pass and began loping down the floor. Al Horford trailed him and was apparently stuck in quicksand for the length of the floor as Hernangomez cruised in for a dunk.
It wasn’t a great game overall for Horford — later in the first, Russell blew by him after the Sixers switched late on a pick-and-roll, then threw down a two-handed dunk on Embiid.
Harris misfired on a couple of easy shots around the rim, though he did attack throughout the game and give the Sixers a few key baskets.
The bench is ready to fire
Furkan Korkmaz chipped in eight first-half points, helping the Sixers to immediately respond with a 9-0 run after Minnesota took a 28-22 lead.
He wasn’t the only bench player unafraid to shoot. Early in the fourth quarter, Brett Brown made the odd decision to run his offense through Matisse Thybulle, and the rookie predictably didn’t have much success. Breaking down defenders with crossover and behind-the-back moves is not exactly Thybulle’s speciality.
Alec Burks, meanwhile, seemed to let it fly almost every single time he touched the ball.
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